Search
Username
Pin It
Favorite

Theater As Catharsis 

"Next to Normal" finds beauty in pain

Anything but normal: the cast wrings emotion out of every scene in a brave production.

Photo courtesy of 2nd Street Theater.

Anything but normal: the cast wrings emotion out of every scene in a brave production.

"Next to Normal," the new show by 2nd Street Theater, is based on a Pulitzer-winning Broadway rock musical that tells the story of a family on the brink of collapse. Diana Goodman is trying to be a good mother and an attentive wife, even as her bipolar disorder worsens by the day. She is hallucinating and sinking deeper into despondency, desperately trying to find the perfect pharmacological cocktail to make everything run a little brighter. Her husband Dan so very much wants his family to return back to normal, that anything outside of that perfect ideal is ignored or fought. Her daughter Natalie is an overachieving and brilliant girl who is struggling with how to deal with a mentally ill mother and a father who can't connect with her. As Diana sees different doctors to try to find peace and Natalie meets a sweet stoner who introduces drugs as a way to numb the pain, the family falls apart one song at a time.

Every square inch of the play is focused squarely on pain and the way a suburban American family goes about alleviating it. Since most of the dialogue is sung, "Les Mis"-style, that means the lyrical content is filled with some of the bravest and most heartrending emotion that has ever come out of Broadway or the musical theater scene in general. Watching these people gradually lose almost everything is rough, but in a way it's more cathartic than depressing.

The performances are uniformly strong, with Caitlin Ford, Ryan Klontz, Steven Livingston, Katie Bullock, John Kish and Ben Larson all reaching the heights and depths needed to make these characters breathe. The small, yet powerful orchestra swelled and subsumed flawlessly under the excellent Meagan Iverson's musical direction.

This show could have been a spectacular failure if the subject matter and the rock opera aesthetic had clashed, but director Brad Ruder never lets the show flounder in its seriousness. The set is kept simple and sparse so the audience is forced to deal with the emotions head-on without any superfluous frills to draw attention.

"Next to Normal" doesn't have any easy answers for the tough questions that plague these characters. Instead, the show sheds light on avenues for communication. It helps create a dialogue for people dealing with these issues that they might not have had before, and leaves viewers more enlightened through the process.

In a town the size of Bend, it's difficult to know which shows will sell and which will leave seats empty with talented casts performing to an audience smaller in number than they are. For every success like "Evil Dead: The Musical" there is something like "Shadowbox" or "Bug" that, regardless of how successful artistically, the audience just doesn't come out for. One of the main reasons for that is the promise of fun. A night out at the theater for some people can be a production in and of itself: finding a babysitter, forking out the cash and sometimes even just putting on pants, so it can be hard to pull that audience in if the subject matter is going to be serious or uncomfortable. "Next to Normal" stacks the deck with so much talent (vocal, instrumental and otherwise), that even in the midst of such powerful work, it is still a very good time.

"Next to Normal"

Feb. 12-27, 7:30 p.m., matinees at 3 p.m.

2nd Street Theater,

220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend

$19-$22.

Related Locations

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Source Weekly Newsletter

Latest in Theater

  • A P.C. Christmas

    • Dec 6, 2017
    A twisted take on some holiday classics brings punny fun More »
  • Inside A Christmas Carol

    • Nov 30, 2017
    You've probably seen this play—or film—at least once during the holidays. The director of this version tells us why this one is not "the same old story." More »
  • Use Your Words

    • Nov 23, 2017
    After sitting around the Thanksgiving table not listening to your relatives' stories, 2nd Street Theater offers a more sophisticated—and perhaps less opinionated—form of storytelling More »
  • More »

More by Jared Rasic

  • Pulpiest Fiction

    Pulpiest Fiction

    The El Royale is worth checking into, mostly
    • Oct 17, 2018
  • A Star is Reborn

    A Star is Reborn

    Gaga and Cooper make beautiful music together
    • Oct 10, 2018
  • Hardy-Har-Har

    Hardy-Har-Har

    Venom bites off more than it can chew
    • Oct 10, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Pulp Friction

    Pulp Friction

    Hollywood-tinged dark comedy makes world premiere
    • Apr 5, 2017
  • Fast Times at Redmond High

    Fast Times at Redmond High

    High-stakes theater project tests students' nerves
    • Apr 12, 2017

© 2018 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation