Nutcase Written and directed by Yael Ronen Habima July 20 Yael Ronen's Nutcase is a serious attempt to tackle the anguish of mental illness. Unfortunately, she gift-wraps her drama in cheap gags that obscure its very real power. What remains is almost a TV sitcom, or a comedy reality show in which the audience gets to vote on who stays in the ward. At issue is how society, caregivers and patients confront mentally diseased lives. Nutcase takes place in Anat Sternshus's clever set, a pristinely white padded ward whose unblemished surface conceals beds, stools, closets and doors, much as the exterior of a human body can conceal the processes within. What happens to the four young women patients in the ward forms the meat of the play. Paranoid schizophrenic Yana (Rinat Matatov) believes spies and spyware are everywhere. Vivian (Miki Peleg), Tomy (Osnat Fishman) and Aya (Hila Feldman) all have personality disorders. Vivian and Tomy react in vastly different ways to abusive pasts. Aya cuts herself, and it is she who emcees, as it were, the narrative. The "sane" characters, too, all have crosses to bear. Tatiana Kanelis-Olier plays Aya's mother Edith, Orna Rotberg is psychiatrist Dr. Sirkin, Michael Koresh is Vivian's legal guardian, Benny, and psychiatric resident Dr. Guy is Tomer Ben-David. The performances throughout are tight, aware and uncompromising, although Matatov's Yana is perhaps the most believable. Moreover, despite its flaws, Nutcase cracks open stereotypical thinking long after the stage has gone dark.