Sick – Zayd Dohrn

sickPre­miered at Kitchen Dog The­atre in Dal­las in May, 2008.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Sid­ney Krebs (49)                    James Craw­ford
Max­ine Krebs (46)                    Lisa Has­sler
Sarah Krebs (19)                      Martha Harms
Davey Krebs (17)                     Lee Helms
Jim (26)                                      Lee Trull

Direc­tor:  Chris Car­los
Set Design:  Michael Sul­li­van
Cos­tume Design:  Christina Dick­son
Sound Design:  Emily K. Young
Props:  Judy Niven and Jen Gilson-Gilliam

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Dohrn, Zayd. Sick. Samuel French, 2012. Drama Library PS3604. O47 S53 2012.

Set­ting:  A Safe Haven on the Lower East Side of Man­hat­tan, present day

Lan­guage:  Contemporary


He had to have a schnozz cast in bronze strapped to his head with a leather belt just to show his face in pub­lic. But he kept writ­ing until his brain was liq­ue­fied. And screw­ing too, appar­ently. Dead at 33. It’ll inspire you, I guar­an­tee. Or at least turn you on.

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic

Plot:  A poetry pro­fes­sor brings  one of his grad­u­ate stu­dents home to meet his dys­func­tional fam­ily of germa­phobes.  His wife is obsessed with clean­li­ness and never leaves home; his son was diag­nosed as being aller­gic to 94 out of 99 house­hold cleansers and never leaves home; and his 19-year-old daugh­ter has just been accepted into a poetry pro­gram at St. Johns but isn’t sure if she should go.  Although the play deals with para­noia brought on by Mul­ti­ple Chem­i­cal Sen­si­tiv­ity, it isn’t dif­fi­cult to see it as a para­ble for any sit­u­a­tion where unrea­son­ing fear takes hold of lives and warps them out of true.  How­ever, the sec­ond act feels rather anti­cli­mac­tic, with the cen­tral ten­sion in the play becom­ing, “Will Sarah break free of her fam­ily or not?” once the play reveals the truth of the family’s condition.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p. 45:  Sid­ney explains why he snuck poten­tially fatal clean­ing items, that caused a severe reac­tion in Davey, into the apartment.  


I was going through our files, last month… I found our wed­ding pic­tures, sit­ting in an enve­lope. Prob­a­bly in there since we moved. Those old prints are full of photo fixer. That’s sup­posed to be one of Davey’s worst reac­tors. So I got rid of them. Scanned them at work, and then threw the prints away.  [Lines cut] I started—picking out other things, from the gro­cery store. Bleach. Oven cleaner. I got more and more excited, with every piece I brought home. Felt like I was—curing him, somehow…

p. 52–53:  Jim tells Sarah how he used to wish his father would abuse him so that he could suf­fer for his art like all great poets. 


Please. By the time Keats was my age, he was dead. I’m not blind. I do have a shred of self-perspective. (He chuck­les.) You know, when I was lit­tle, I used to have this fan­tasy… I’d pre­tend my dad hit me… Abused me, some­how. I’d lie awake at night, imag­in­ing I had black eyes, busted lips, blood in my mouth, that kind of thing… [Lines cut] And he hit me. Finally. Right across the face. Lit­tle back-handed karate chop. I was com­pletely stunned. Too shocked to feel it, even. And we both stood there, qui­etly. And then he started to cry…

p. 57–58:  Max­ine tries to defend her rea­sons for shel­ter­ing the chil­dren in iso­la­tion away from the world.


It is. I ran track in high school. Used to love to jog… Even after Sarah was born. Marathons. Down to Bat­tery Park. The Hud­son River. It should be throb­bing, you know, neon pink, with all the sludge they dump in there. But it’s sparkling and beau­ti­ful some­times, like a post­card… [Lines cut] That’s why it’s lucky she’s here. Exposed to great art, you know. Music. Poetry. Not to all the vio­lence, pornog­ra­phy, the sewer of pop cul­ture we all take for granted these days. Unlike the rest of us, she had a chance to develop a healthy mind.




Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes:  

p. 24–25:  Jim gets Sarah to let him read one of her poems.  (Part of a longer scene that can be divided in dif­fer­ent ways from p.23–29.) Starts with


Tell me some­thing at least, so I can say I–

and ends with


I know, isn’t it? I felt so bad for the frog though. Don’t you think? Down there, all alone, with those things? This for­eign species? But I don’t know, maybe he was happy. Maybe they were friends. Maybe he felt taken care of… (beat) So, I wrote a poem about it.

p. 33–34:  Jim and Davey have a “guy talk”. (Part of a much longer scene which can be divided in dif­fer­ent ways from p. 31–35.)  Starts with


Does it feel the way it looks?

and ends with



p.49–51:  Jim and Sarah talk and clean up the blood from Davey’s severe aller­gic reac­tion brought on by Sid­ney delib­er­ately sneak­ing chem­i­cals into the house. (Part of a longer scene which can be divided in dif­fer­ent ways from p.49–56.) Starts with


You okay?

and ends with


                It’s not your fault. You just. Can’t.


Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

John­son, Ryan E. (20 Novem­ber, 2009). Sick: Cap­i­tal t brings dohrn’s world to life with bril­liant per­for­mances. [open access]

Mac­Don­ald, Sandy. (29 August, 2009). Charm of ‘Sick’ lies in the dys­func­tion. [open access] Boston Globe.

Ren­dell, Bob. Sick: Amer­i­can para­noia returns to new jer­sey reper­tory. [open access] Talkin’ Broad­way.

Siegel, Naomi.  (22 Feb­ru­ary, 2009). Ill­ness, illu­sion and dark com­edy in long branch. [open access] New York Times.

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