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”

A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre

A Number, presented at Writers’ Theatre and directed by Robin Witt, takes place in a world designed by Courtney O’Neill — a spare yet expensive-looking living room, eerily clean, with just a few couches and tables and sculptures. The space feels erudite and smooth, yet the slightest bit empty and creepy. The stage is illuminated by four wall lights that shine a crystal-clear white, and a big window at the back that turns blue and gray and white at key moments in the show; lighting designer Brandon Wardell does admirable work creating tension in the space. Continue reading “A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre”

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Vibrates with Joy and Simmering Rage

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Writer’s Theatre vibrates violently with joy and simmering rage. Inspired by the life of the real-life black, queer, mother of the blues Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett,) August Wilson’s play tells the intimate story of a legend whose star is fading, and along with it, her ability to be seen by the larger world. Continue reading “‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Vibrates with Joy and Simmering Rage”

Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’

I have long held that the most powerful art is that which is deeply personal. Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, in its current production at Writer’s Theatre, is one such piece. The latest in a long line of lovely work from local director Lavina Jadwani, Vietgone is a romp of a love story, but its real power lies not solely in the budding relationship between the two leads–but in the writer’s journey of understanding his own parents.

Continue reading “Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’”

Nostalgia Consumes in a Fiery ‘Buried Child’

“I thought I was dying but I  just lost my voice.” – Tilden, Sam Shepard’s Buried Child.

This line perfectly describes the devastating loneliness that reverberates throughout Sam Shephard’s Buried Child, currently playing at Writers Theatre. The large house is empty at top of show except for the elderly Dodge (Larry Yando) who is coughing and watching TV all alone as rain falls outside. Dodge looks up at the roof to listen to the rain, which is wonderful because there is no roof in the living room of Jack Magaw’s set. In fact, the entire front of the home is excavated like an ancient archaeological site, preserved so we can see the relics inside. Adding to this jagged, exposed feeling is a massive crack that runs through the middle of the floor. Largely ignored by the family that resides in the house, I could not help but notice that the two outsiders in the play either noticed or tripped over the crack. Continue reading “Nostalgia Consumes in a Fiery ‘Buried Child’”