Arts & Culture

Family antics amaze in ‘Next to Normal’

Contributing Writer
Friday, December 7, 2012

Musical Forum’s production of “Next to Normal” premieres tonight, and there is only one thing to do about it: go see it. It’s free, it’s filled with talent, and it’s this weekend only, so take the opportunity while you can and go see a musical that will make you laugh, cry and want to punch something all at the same time.

“Next to Normal” tells the story of Diana Goodman (Emily Kassie ’14), a bipolar and depressed mother, and her family, all of whom struggle to deal with the demons that plague Diana and poison her relationships with everyone else. As Diana begins to refuse her medication and eventually attempts suicide, the lives of her husband Dan (Will Peterson ’14) and her daughter Natalie (Sarah Gage ’15) begin to unravel nearly as quickly as Diana’s sanity. After trying several different drug combinations, undergoing hypnosis and visiting two different doctors, Diana is treated using electroconvulsive therapy. The therapy causes significant memory loss for Diana, giving her family what could be a chance at a fresh start with her – or another opportunity for heartbreak.

“Next to Normal” was a large Broadway success two years ago, and the rights to the show just came out in August, said Melissa Prusky ’13, the show’s assistant director and a board member of Musical Forum. “It deals with heavy themes,” Prusky said, “and it’s not a show you’d usually see on a college campus.”

“Next to Normal” deals with topics such as the blurry line between using drugs for treatment and using them to cover up a problem, self-identity crises and the complexity of mother-daughter relationships. It explores the image of the modern-day functional family, and it tackles grief and the question of when grief is acceptable.

It’s not all doom and gloom – there are witty and sarcastic moments peppered throughout the play that mock subjects like modern-day housewifery and the image of perfection – but for every moment of laughter, there is a moment when you’ll bite back tears.

“This play just hits you,” said director Zach Rufa ’14. “It continually pushes you as an audience member.”

The musical isn’t weighed down with an intricately designed set or complicated blocking. Its strength comes from the simple yet unsolvable problems that the Goodman family deals with every day.

“It’s not just an explosive show,” Kassie said. “It also makes people think afterwards, and think about issues that everyone can relate to on one level or another.”

Online tickets have all already been reserved, but half the tickets for each show are still available at the ticket booth of the Production Workshop Downspace starting an hour before each show. Shows run Dec. 7-10 at 8 p.m and Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.

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