BWW Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Bootless Stageworks
This year, Bootless Stageworks is using its new home at St. Stephen's Church on Broom Street to re-present shows they had performed in earlier venues. In case you are unfamiliar with it, "next to normal" is about a suburban family dealing with the effects of mental illness, told through a largely rock score of almost operatic proportions. The show was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Diana Goodman (Tara Herweg) suffers from what may (or may not) be Bipolar Disorder; as one of her doctor's (both of whom are ably played by Shaun Yates) observes: "Often the best we can do is put names on collections of symptoms." The rest of her family: her almost 18-year-old son, Gabe (Antoine Martinez-Jones), her 16-year-old daughter, Natalie (Shannon Q. Harkins), and her husband, Dan (Michael Sheldon). Or, as Diana describes them: "So my son's a little sh*t, my husband's boring, and my daughter, though a genius, is a freak." The cast is completed by the entrance of Henry (Bootless newcomer Michael Vandie), Natalie's admirer.
I had the pleasure to attend a performance of "next to normal" this past weekend. Bootless is used to making the most of a limited performance space and they have done so again. The customary two-story suburban home is represented in a more compact fashion by two tiers, with the forestage, and some movable furniture, put into service for scenes outside the home.
Six musicians, under the experienced and able direction of James Fuerst, provide more than ample accompaniment for the singers.
Director (and Bootless Artistic Director) Rosanne Dellaversano has crafted her cast into the personae of this drama. Ms. Herweg ably portrays Diana's journey through the fog of psychopharmacology and the blankness following ECT treatment to a determination to hopefully live her life in the light, and to allow her family to find their own peace. Each of the supporting actors demonstrates how their lives are affected by - and affect - Diana's journey. It's a trip worth taking.
There are only three more performances of "next to normal" at Bootless Stageworks at 1301 N. Broom Street, Wilmington, so go to www.bootless.org to reserve your seat.