Staff Photos: Jonathan Phillips. Naima Carter Russell, left, and Maurice Ralston perform a scene from the play "Tranced" at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.
As a young African woman picks up her sweater and prepares to leave his office, Dr. Phillip Malaad asks a simple question, followed up with a brief set of instructions, and his technique is at work.
"When somebody takes control of your options, you fall into a trance," Malaad explains.
A respected psychiatrist famous for his use of "trancing" to help patients recall painful, suppressed memories, Malaad finds himself in another session listening as the young woman describes an incident she witnessed in her native country, a recollection that becomes more clear -- and more startling -- the deeper she falls into a trance.
As this scene plays out on the Aurora Theatre stage, audiences will be drawn into Bob Clyman's psychological drama "Tranced," a play layered with multiple thematic implications and political overtones that builds to an unexpected outcome.
A clinical psychologist himself, Clyman has crafted a story that delves into characters' motivations and the inclination to make decisions based on assumptions and limited information. Quick shifts in time and place and a dense dialogue require close attention but contribute to the anticipation.
"The ticking clock is always important for the psychological thriller," Clyman said, "and there's one here and a sense that you can't afford to make the wrong decision."
First produced by the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, Calif., the play is making its regional premiere at the Lawrenceville theater.
"'Tranced' will showcase four great actors using every bit of their craft to bring this play to life," said Anthony Rodriguez, producing artistic director for the Aurora Theatre. "By combining mystery, intrigue, politics and a healthy dose of 'nothing is as it appears,' Clyman has created a play that challenges actors and will mesmerize audiences."
Clyman, an award-winning playwright whose plays have been produced throughout the country, arrived in Gwinnett on Tuesday to see a preview performance.
"I enjoyed it," he said. "I've been fortunate that I've had good productions of it pretty consistently so far and this one is no exception. I think they capture pretty well the pace of it and the sense of what the stakes are."