Nomadic Theatre starts off the semester by continuing to explore hidden, yet gifted pieces. In its newest production “Sick,” a dark comedy written by the emerging playwright Zayd Dohrn, everyone is ill and troubled by individual problems that lurk beneath their ordinary household life.

Directed by Gregory Keiser (COL ’16), the play offers us a peak into the Krebs family. We are first introduced to Sydney Krebs (Thomas Shuman, COL ’17), a literature professor at a college in New York City, and his student Jim (Albert Scerbo, COL ’15). At first sight, we might not identify a teacher-student relationship between the two characters as they casually chatter on the subject of girls and sex instead. Like teenage boys, the two enter Krebs’s pristine and meticulous house wearing dirty sports attire as Krebs’s wife, Maxine (Arianne Price, SFS ’15), immediately starts to complain about the mess being made.

Over the next hour and a half we remain at the Krebs family house, where so much is hidden and revealed simultaneously. We learn that the daughter and son of the Krebs couple are both fragile and severely ill with allergies and have been kept inside the house. They are homeschooled because Maxine was convinced the chemicals and pollution of the outside world are too dangerous for her children. Davey (Conor Ross, COL ’16) suffers from severe asthma and has never been exposed to the outside world. Compared to her brother, Sarah (Olivia Duff, COL ’16) is healthier, but she has never pursued further the talent for literature that she inherited from her father.


We ask ourselves various questions: Are the children’s disease true and so severe that they have to be kept in the house at all time? Or is Maxine exaggerating the situation because she herself is afraid of stepping out of her shelter?

Maxine’s serious fetish about cleanliness is conveyed through the stage as well as the costume designs. In place of a cozy armchair in the living room is a wheelchair. The overall color of the house is white and the characters, apart from Jim, are all dressed in white as if to resemble patients in the hospital. Halfway through the play, the couch in the middle is revealed to be a gurney, which renders the house even more medical.

When Sydney keeps finding to pretexts to keep his guest in the house, we know he has an agenda in mind, for himself and for his family. Through the conversations and interactions among the family, we pick up on this subtle, underlying tension. Skeptical of his wife and fed up by the over caution, the confinement and the paranoia in the house, Sydney reveals that he hides chemicals that Maxine has banned from the house. He loses his dignity and pride when Davey’s allergies to the products abruptly reacted.

Ultimately, “Sick” is a play about fear and how we cope with it. Sydney is afraid of being trapped in the house all his life. Maxine is afraid of the threats of outer world. The children are afraid of stepping out because they were never allowed to. Jim, on the other hand, confesses that he is afraid of being ordinary.

The play presents each character’s personal reaction to their fears but also asks questions: what is a healthy fear? Do we let fear take over us and hide forever, as does Maxine?


Written after the epidemic of SARS in Beijing and the occurrence of 9/11, the play is filled with implications about the public’s paranoia to disease and trauma in the aftermath of both events.

However, the play is not limited to any era but is pertinent to daily life. Nicole Chenelle (COL ’15), the producer, believes that “the play can be particular identifiable to Georgetown students, because the stress level here is so high that it is necessary to think about how we are going to deal with the anxiety and fear.”

More to the question of fear, the closure explores how insecurity and fear can effect the people surrounding us. Sydney hopes to reconnect his family with the outside world but realized that he cannot do so after witnessing the severity of his son’s illness. Whether Maxine stays indoor to protect her children or because she is in fact scared of the world herself, her children and husband all struggle to abide by her conviction.

“Sick” will be playing in Devine Studio Theatre Jan. 15 through Jan. 18 and Jan. 21 through Jan. 24.


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  1. Nicole Chenelle says:

    Thanks for this great review, Rita! So glad you enjoyed the show!

  2. Phenomenal ending–my goodness!

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