Sunday, April 28, 2013

Not Normal, but Better

I wasn't prepared to have my emotional socks knocked off at a matinee.

Despite the fact that Cadence Theater Company has been blowing my mind with their play choices and quality productions for over a year now, I had no idea what I was in for.

What I knew was that I was going to see a Pulitzer Prize-winning and multiple Tony Award-winning play produced by Cadence in partnership with Virginia Repertory.


Cadence seems to thrive on choosing important works never before produced in Richmond and bless 'em for it.

This time it was "Next to Normal."

The song list was extensive - 18 in the first act and 19 in the second - making it feel a little like an operetta with most of the action moving forward through song with some dialog interspersed.

They say love is blind but love is insane.

Having a live band is always a treat at a play, although there were times when the music drowned out the voices, a shame when the lyrics explained so much.

But that was my only quibble since the gut-wrenching story of mental illness and how a family deals with it when it happens to a member was absolutely compelling.

The people who think they're happy are just stupid.

With a cast that was strong across the board, it was impossible not to get caught up in the drama unfolding.

Without telling too much about the story, there's an instance of heartbreak that lives on for eighteen years, coloring everyone's lives.

I know from similar personal experience that unless you've experienced such trauma, you can not imagine the toll it takes on the people involved or their worldview forever after.

Let go of the past and maybe I'll see you at last.

That's not to say that a lot of the lyrics weren't funny, lines like, "I'm a sociopath, I love Sylvia Plath."

But despite upbeat, rocking songs and moments of mirth, it was at heart a play about grieving, mental illness,  drug abuse, suicide and life in suburbia.

It's a world where the doctor medicates a person until she says she feels nothing and then he declares her stable.

It had me in tears by the middle of the second act.

This isn't your parents' feel-good musical, but a musical look at some heavy topics that may not be everyone's cup of tea.

That said, the three blue hairs sitting behind me raved at intermission about the acting, the voices, the set and the score, so it maybe it's all in how open-minded you are about new theater works.

What doctors call dysfunction, we call romance.

What Cadence calls their season closer, I call a must-see.

Because life goes on and even when it's difficult, it's always easier set to music.

No comments:

Post a Comment