BWW Reviews: ALMOST TOGETHER Explores One Woman's Journey with Bipolar Disorder at Capital Fringe
One first has to give credit to longtime community theatre actress Mary Leaphart for being brave enough to not only share her personal struggles with bipolar disorder since college, but having the stamina to explore her emotions as she navigates those highs and lows through thirteen musical numbers. That's a lot to undertake in an hour.
With direction from Steven Cupo, Mary Leaphart reveals - mostly through songs - what it's like to live life with bipolar disorder in her solo show Almost Together. Accompanied on the keyboard by Abbey Smith, she delves into some relatively obscure contemporary musical theatre numbers from the likes of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Scott Alan, and Dimond and Kooman. The mere fact that she tackles works by these emerging young composers set my musical theatre-loving heart all a-flutter, but I was even more impressed that she figured out how to use each one to share her personal story to some degree. Dimond and Kooman's "Out of My Head" and Scott Alan's "Fly Away (Never Never Land)" are the most effective in this regard. Using songs from better known musical theatre heavyweights (Stephen Sondheim, Arlen and Koehler, William Finn, Ahrens and Flaherty, and to some extent Jason Robert Brown) along with pop songwriters (Sara Bareilles, for example), she is able to further flesh out the inherent struggles associated with living with the disorder.
Unfortunately, for all of the promise - from a theatrical/storytelling perspective - the show's not executed particularly well.
Her personal tales only serve to set up the songs and are so brief that we never really get drawn into her world except through music. While some generalized argument could be made such as music is the way she can best express herself, we never really figure out why she personally uses music to explore her feelings. Likewise, in her spoken word song setups, we hear over and over that she struggles, but never really figure out the depths of those struggles. After a while and with few exceptions, they all start to sound the same and don't offer any more insight into her personal experience.
Likewise, while some of the songs are sung adequately well, at least in the performance I witnessed, she struggled with pitch a lot which took me out of the moment on more than one occasion. She seemed so moved by the lyrics that I was rooting for her to succeed, but the technical struggles certainly marred the experience.
That said, if one looks at this piece as a personal motivational/therapeutic one and less as a polished theatrical piece, it likely does serve a major purpose for her personally. To that I say "brava" to her for taking it on.
Running Time: 60 minutes. Almost Together has one more performance in this year's Capital Fringe Festival. For tickets and show information, visit the Capital Fringe website.
Graphic: Courtesy of Capital Fringe/Artist.