"NEXT TO NORMAL" A ROCK OPERA THAT ILLUMINATES
How ironic is it that an architect who specializes in buildings of sturdy construction lives in a house that is literally falling to pieces? That fact is the understandable result when a member of that household, in this case the mother, suffers from a mental problem of bi-polar depression.
Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is presenting a powerful and poignant look behind the kitchen and bedroom doors of the Goodman family in the Pulitzer Prize winning musical "Next to Normal" by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, playing until Sunday, June 9.
Years ago the two composers were challenged to compose a ten minute play and they chose electroshock therapy as their topic. Over time and the major cities of New York and Washington, D.C., the piece grew into the incredibly moving piece that won a trio of Tony Awards in 2009.
Semina De Laurentis, artistic director of Seven Angels, has taken on formidable role of Diana, the mom whose mental issues are overwhelming everyone in the household. DeLaurentis is wonderfully and painfully sensitive as the woman who can't face the tragic loss of a son eighteen years before and so keeps him alive in her mind.
Son Gabe is wrapped in a cocoon of caring by Brett Stoelker as he tries to shepherd his mom through the pitfalls and dangers of her delusions. Husband Dan, a supportive Victor Herandez, works to hold all the five hundred pieces of their jigsaw puzzle world together, but teenage daughter Natalie, a confused and conflicted Mandy Thompson, rebels at her fate. Natalie is struggling not to be normal, because that is impossible, but would be happy to be 'next to normal.'
Natalie's plight is aided considerably by the entrance of Henry into her life. As her first boyfriend, Henry, a winning Johnny Newcombe, offers her caring support as well as some unsuitable alternatives. Diana's plight is complicated by her medical team of Drs. Madden and Fine, both captured by a diligent Daniel C. Levine, and the pills and procedures that are offered her. Janine Molinari is clearly at the helm as director of this emotionally triggered rock musical.
Songs like "Just Another Day," "I'm Alive," "A Light in the Dark," "Song of Forgetting" and "You Don't Know" help to propel the storyline.
For tickets ($30-44, students $15), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Tenth Annual Halo Awards for excellence in high school theater, were presented to over 40 schools in Connecticut on May 28 and 29 at Waterbury's Palace Theater. Now is the time to signup for Summer Theatre Camp, July 1 -- August 16, for ages 7-9 and 10-18. Call the box office for details.
More than 25 million American ages 18 and over, about 1 in 4 adults, have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Sit down with the Goodman family and watch how they cope with that diagnosis and find hope and promise on the distant horizon.