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Waska, R.T. (2001). Some Thoughts on “Mrs. Klein” A Theater Review from a Psychoanalytic Perspective. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 10(3-4):275-278.

(2001). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 10(3-4):275-278

Some Thoughts on “Mrs. Klein” A Theater Review from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

Review by:
Robert T. Waska, Ph.D., MFT

The 1996 San Francisco production of Nicholas Wright's play, “Mrs. Klein”, starred Uta Hagen as Klein, Laila Robins as her daughter Melitta, and Amy Wright as Paula Heimann. Psychoanalytically informed comments are offered. The play was best understood and enjoyed when viewed as a patient, who uses various defensive maneuvers to ward off deeper paranoid and depressive anxieties.

In the beginning of the play, the audience is shown Klein's humorously aggressive manner of assigning Paula the task of revising her book. In the paper by Pearl King entitled “Paula Heimann's quest for her own identity as a psychoanalyst: an introductory memoir” (1989), we learn that in fact, “When Melanie Klein decided one morning to make use of some of her experiences of dealing with her mourning for her son's death, and to write a paper, Paula offered to act as her secretary”. (1: 3) At the very end of the play, Klein stiffly and somewhat callously tells Paula of her fees and gives her a set of appointment times for an analysis. Expressing quite a different tone, King states that: One day Melanie Klein interpreted to Paula that she thought she wished to have analysis with her, but Paula said she can't pay for it. Melanie replied that she would reduce her fees (1: 3-4). In the play the analysis started immediately, at the insistence of Paula. However, King continues, She (Klein) went on to say that she would not have a vacancy for another year.

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