Let me just say right off: Becca Schneider is a talented actress and a terrific writer. Her one-woman show Trich (pronounced “trick”), making its regional premiere at West Orange’s Luna Stage, is a tour-de-force piece about a mental disorder of which few people have heard. It’s trichotillomania, part of a group of conditions known as body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB). Those affected have frequent, repeated, irresistible urges to pull out hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body.
You’d think someone with such a disorder might not want to discuss it in front of a roomful of strangers. Yet Ms. Schneider does so with courage, candor, and a rare grace that holds her audience from start to finish. And with unexpected humor: where else, for example, could you hope to find a slide show that makes snarky comments to its presenter?
Schneider, who has had the disorder since girlhood, uses her comedic gifts to relate to us what it’s like to live with a mental disorder, explaining it and answering frequently asked questions about it. Yet she smoothly moves into serious territory, touching us by displaying her feelings of self-loathing and isolation while struggling with her disorder — and her search for ways of coping with it.
Co-directors Jenn Haltman and Casey Pfeifer, who are also listed as co-creators with Schneider of this piece, have helped shape what could have been an amorphous mass of memories into a coherent story. The creators’ aims, as stated in the directors’ notes in the program, were to create a path for Schneider to share her story; to reflect on the messages American culture sends about mental health issues; and to explore how those messages result in feelings of shame and secrecy for those with such issues. It is safe to say that Haltman, Pfeifer, and Schneider have succeeded in achieving their aims.
Trich tells a powerful, poignant story without falling into the traps of pedanticism or despair. It utilizes humor to make serious points, and leaves the audience with a hopeful vision of the future for both Becca Schneider and all those who bear with mental health issues. It is a privilege to be able to see Trich, and I cannot more strongly encourage you to see this piece before its all-too-brief run ends.