I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying!: The Edifice of Self in Next to Normal at Writers Theatre

I don’t need to tell you how good of a musical Next to Normal is; it won a Pulitzer. Nor is it a surprise that Tony-winning director David Cromer has created a masterful evening of small and terrifyingly intimate moments with a deft, spare, and nuanced hand. Instead, I’d like to focus on why this show had me weeping uncontrollably for most of its second act, and how I think it got there.

For those unfamiliar, Next to Normal is the story of the suburban, middle-class, normal-seeming Goodman family. Our central character, Diana (Keely Vasquez), struggles to live her adult life while dealing with severe and often crippling bipolar disorder. Her husband Dan (David Schlumpf) and teenage kids Natalie and Gabe (Kyrie Courter and Liam Oh), meanwhile, must deal with the side effects of Diana’s dysfunction. Continue reading “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying!: The Edifice of Self in Next to Normal at Writers Theatre”

Fire and Brimstone Outweigh ‘Doubt’ in Gift Theatre Production

From the first echoes of the imposing Michael Patrick Thornton’s voice bringing the devastatingly charming Father Flynn’s voice into the space (a charismatic Michael Patrick Thornton), we are submerged in a flickering Catholic Church. The first moments of Doubt by John Patrick Shanley produced by the Gift in Steppenwolf’s 1700 space caused the audience to be simultaneously reaffirmed and frightened by Flynn’s sermons. His tone suggests that if we just listen close enough we will avoid the temptations of which he speaks. The spectators are few, two nuns and a dignified Black woman, she is notably separated from the rest, seated between the nuns and the Father. This is an intentional choice by director John Gawlik, manifested by Mike Durst’s deft lighting, that would later prove relevant. Continue reading “Fire and Brimstone Outweigh ‘Doubt’ in Gift Theatre Production”