By: Paulanne Simmons
May 18, 2023: Emma Sheanshang’s new play, The Fears, is about a group of people who attend weekly sessions at a Buddhist center in New York City. They have difficult pasts. They are broken. They are searching for peace.
Maia (Maddie Corman) leads the group. She is replacing the much beloved Sunam, who she believes healed her soul twenty-six years ago when she first joined the group.
Fiz (Mehran Khaghani) was raped by his father from age 11 to 13, something the rest of his family will not acknowledge.
Suzanne (Robyn Peterson) was raped by her priest on a regular basis throughout high school. After she stopped going to church, the priest began raping her younger sister. When her younger sister was married and her husband found out about the rapes she hanged herself.
Mark (Carl Hendrick Louis) is trying to get work as an actor. He says his mother regrets having him because she believes he was the reason his father stopped loving her and started drinking and beating her up. He lives with Thea.
Thea (Kerry Bishé) has not yet recovered from her mother’s death aboard the Pan Am plane that was shot down over Lockerbie when she was six. According to Mark she has a “twenty million year time-line of every horrible thing that’s ever happened.”
Rosa (Natalie Woolams-Torres) has panic attacks. This is only made worse when she finds out she has forty-three brothers and sisters because her father donated semen for money.
Katie (Jess Gabor) is involved with a group that calls itself “Children of Death.” Somehow she’s still depressed.
For a short time, Katie goes missing and everyone worries about her, coming to some terrifying conclusions. Then Maia reveals some distressing information about Sunam.
Despite some excellent ensemble work, director Dan Algrant cannot turn this play into anything but a series of group therapy sessions. If that interests you, this play may be very enjoyable. Otherwise you’ll be waiting impatiently for the agony to end.
The Fears runs through July 9 at The Irene Diamond Stage, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42 Street. Photos: Daniel Rader