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Theater Review: A pun-fueled “Trich” impresses at Civic

Using Run DMC’s household hit “It’s Tricky” to open a one-woman show exploring trichotillomania was on nobody’s bingo card.

Alluding to Becca Schneider’s onslaught of punchy, and self-referential cheekiness, the choice made immediate sense.

And if you are reading this and wondering what that word just meant, rely on the power of the internet; or, more urgently, let Schneider tell you herself through her moving, and infinitely funny, piece reminiscent of a relatable Ted talk.

“Trich,” in a tightly-coupled marriage between laugh-out-loud funny and cry inside sentimentality, is a 75-minute exercise in confronting shame.

It almost transcends the state of traditional theater and lends itself to the brim of what is considered to be more experimental. The beauty of “Trich,” whether by active effort on Schneider’s part, is that it lives in this space of its own: a landscape undefined by shape, void of expectation.

Mental disorders are like that, though, abundantly harrowing and formless. This play is, at its core, an ode to mental health and how it’s discussed - or consequently ignored - in our shared cultures. Becca Schneider is just giving us her piece, in collaboration with Jenn Haltman and Casey Pfeifer, in a much larger puzzle of universal isolation driven by undiscussed talking points.

Unraveling as an inner monologue, ditching convention for innovation, Schneider shares her take on trichotillomania as a stream of consciousness. Told in vignettes, paired with plenty of puns and an ungodly amount of “Rent” references, audiences are walked through the core of this condition being lived with.

In what could have easily been an unreliable history lesson with glazing eyes, the biographical one-act blends informative with sensational quite well. At no point does it feel like Schneider had no business being at the wheel of her own vehicle; her proficiency as an actor and instantaneous human likeness felt like watching an ensemble of 50.

Where one-person productions can often feel self-contained, self-righteous and continually unnecessary, “Trich” is meant to be one. It is a humble representation of what it can look like, even if briefly, to leave your mental disorder in the rearview.

For some, like Schneider explores, it is far too easy to become enveloped in shame. Mental illness is seldom discussed, and even as it pushes toward normalcy, these stories need to continue being told.

Trichotillomania is Schneider’s disorder and she found a way to take pain and cope with it; a collective audience watches one woman heal in front of their own eyes, and how she continues to heal.

This is one story in a book that will never be fully-written, or fully-realized, but reminds audiences that they are still the author.

“Trich,” 7 p.m. May 16, 17; 2, 7 p.m. May 18, Civic Theatre of Allentown, Theatre514, 514 N. 19th St., Allentown. 610-432-8943, https://civictheatre.com/

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY BILL BASTA Becca Schneider, “Trich,” Theatre514, Civic Theatre of Allentown.