Play Review #1

Maddie Williams, D Block, September 30th, 2013

On Friday night, I went to see next to normal at Cape Rep in Brewster. next to normal is a musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt. The show was probably my favourite show I've ever seen live. It was so amazing, and I was so impressed with the entire show.

next to normal tells the story of Diana Goodman, her worsening mental illness, and how her family deals with her issues. Some of the major themes in the show are family, grief, drugs, and ethics in psychiatry. The musical is very serious, but has funny moments throughout. The actors are so believable, and the script highlights how people would really talk. There is a lot of profanity, but it's understandably used and is never used simply for the sake of swearing. The profanity really helps the audience understand the turmoil the Goodman family is under.

The directing of this show was absolutely amazing. Kristin McLaughlin did an amazing job coordinating all of the aspects of a musical- the musicians were incredible, the lighting was INSANE, and the set and costumes were realistic, and really-well done. I was especially impressed with the lighting and set design. The lighting really reflected the different moods of all six different characters, and was amazing at highlighting Diana's inner struggles. The set was built with lots of sharp angles and flat pieces, and the character of Gabe used the entire set, climbing up and down different pieces.

I really noticed how many different Viewpoints are actually used in plays. Architecture was definitely used the most in next to normal, considering Gabe, who is a figment of Diana's imagination, moves around the set the most. Repetition and kinaesthetic response were also really prevalent in the show. My favourite song from next to normal, "Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling," highlights these two viewpoints the most. Here's a link to the song, you can hear the repetition in the song.

All of the actors were absolutely incredible in their roles. Two of the actors, Nikki Van Cassele (Diana) and Matt Ferrell (Dan), were members of Equity, whereas the other four actors were locals. I was extremely impressed Chelsey Jo Ristaino, who played Natalie. She put so much emotion into an extremely difficult to play character, who deals with both the pressure she puts on herself academically, and the stress from having a mother with bipolar disorder and depression. Her turn to drugs is heart-wrenching, and the audience was practically pleading with her to take back Henry (played by Christopher Sheehan), her boyfriend who she broke up with because these pressures in her life. I was also really impressed with Matthew Corr and Marty Brent, who played Gabe and Doctor Fine/Madden, respectively. The two characters are completely different, but remind me of yin and yang. Whereas Gabe is played as the antagonist in next to normal, Doctor Madden is a supporting character who helps Diana fight for sanity. However, I think that in Gabe, there is a little good, and in Doctor Madden, due to the ethics in medicine (he resorts to electroshock therapy for Diana), there is a little bad.

Cape Rep's stage is in between black box and thrust, considering the audience only sits on the downstage side. The set was absolutely incredible. The set pieces like tables and chairs all had wheels on them for easy movement on- and off-stage, or were light enough to pick up and carry. The set itself looked like it was made for a Viewpoints workshop. There were many different levels, and sharp angles in the architecture. It was absolutely incredible seeing how the characters used the set in all different ways, especially the character Gabe. He constantly was moving around the set, and really conveyed the fact that he wasn't actually there.

The costumes were very well-done, and there were a lot of quick changes that were performed seamlessly. I wish that Diana's costumes had had more variety maybe to imply her growing mental instability. However, most of the costumes fit the characters well, and reflected the scenes pretty well.

The lighting was one of the best aspects of the entire show. Parts of it bothered me personally, like the strobe lights because they give me headaches, but I was really impressed with the creative ways the set was lit. The stage was also lit using lamps and other light sources on stage as props/set pieces. I was really impressed.

All in all, next to normal was the best show I have seen live ever, and I would gladly see it again.