Before the Drugs Kick In

Maria DeCotis stars in Before the Drugs Kick In. Photo by Arin Sang-urai
Maria DeCotis stars in Before the Drugs Kick In. Photo by Arin Sang-urai

NEW YORK – Before the Drugs Kick In

Self-preservation is one of our basic instincts, the need to protect ourselves from harm. Mike Lemme’s new play, Before The Drugs Kick In, is an incredible story of one woman’s desperate attempt at self-preservation.

Lynn (the wonderful Maria DeCotis) is/was a mother who 24 years ago attempted suicide in front of her two very young sons, telling them as she raised the kitchen knife to her wrist, “Call 911.” It becomes clear that this attempt to end her life was a cry for help to escape her feelings of a trapped life. She lives in the suburbs of the 1990s. The burbs, where no one is seen outside walking, where the only movement on the small neighborhood roads is cars and children on bikes. No adult is out walking, enjoying the day. She lives in a society of housewives imprisoned in their homes, only looking out of their large picture windows at one another. No one venturing out, no one venturing over.

Maria DeCotis in a scene from Before the Drugs Kick In. Photo by Arin Sang-urai

Maria DeCotis in a scene from Before the Drugs Kick In. Photo by Arin Sang-urai

She had a job but met a man and got pregnant, and with pregnancy, she lost her job and herself. As Lemme so poignantly puts it, “Baby showers were retirement parties for work and funerals for friendships.” A life of independence shuttered. This is the loneliness of parenting and the burbs, where connections have to be planned before being carried out if ever carried out.

In Before The Drugs Kick In, Lynn stands before us, not as the 62-year-old woman who has lived in an insane asylum for the past 24 years, but as a 28-year-old stand-up comedian, because as she says, “When life gets too hard to handle, some people meditate or do yoga…I taught myself how to… become a stand-up comedian.” A comedian who is there not only to entertain but to tell her story of hope. Hope that her husband and sons will come and get her and take her home.

She is cognitive now because the massive amount of drugs that the asylum prescribes for her has not kicked in…yet. This is how she survives in this place, summoning each day an audience to save her from the isolating loneliness of the asylum. To bring hope. It is all Lynn has in her solitary world, surrounded by individuals who scream. Scream out of their fears, exasperation, and desperation. Lynn does not scream; she only asks again and again how could that one mistake with the knife end her life and separate her forever from her family. How does one mistake end it all? Where is forgiveness and love? And would a man who had made the same mistake be treated the same?

Before The Drugs Kick In is based on a true event, and that makes it all the more heartrending. DeCotis eloquently embodies the Lynns, the 62-year-old and 28-year-old, with truth and ease. She draws us in with humor and self-deprecation, reaching out to us as the friend she never had.

Lynn is mindful that cutting herself in front of her children was not right and that it would leave them most assuredly scarred, but at that very moment, she had to do it. Lynn had lost her belief in herself. I felt such empathy for someone who made this one mistake and now was left to live a life of abandonment, which is just as scarring.

Before The Drugs Kick In is funny, heart-wrenching, and not to be missed. How Lemme creatively rolls out the story, discreetly turning one card after the other over until the deck is face up, creates one unexpected moment after one unexpected moment. DeCotis’s performance is staggering, as she is not one woman standing before us but two, and they each have something to say.

Before The Drugs Kick In, written and directed by comedian and playwright Mike Lemme, movement direction by Mandy Gordon, starring Maria DeCotis, playing at Theater Lab through March 30th.

Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets HERE

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Doubt: A ParableEnemy of the PeopleThe EffectDead OutlawBliss Street at City WineryThe Club,  Jelly’s Last Jam, and The Maid and the Mezmerizer.

Before the Drugs Kick In


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