Category Archive for: ‘David Hirzel’

Next to Normal: Please come back, we need you

It’s a little late in the game to be posting a review of this show:  today’s (4/27/14) 2:00 matinee was the last performance of Navato Theater Company’s Next to Normal.  It played to a full house—we were lucky enough to get the last two folding chairs before the box office closed for good and had to turn away the last of the eager late-comers.  News of this show had spread like wildfire, and with good reason.

It’s a musical, but not like any other you may have seen.  It deals with mental illness.  Very directly.  It presents the life of a modern American family, dysfunctional as any those we in the audience know from our own lives already.  But above all the tense interactions and confusions and denials lies a shadow.  The doctors have their ideas, their proposals, their drugs and procedures.  But they don’t know the causes of the turmoil and despair, and they can’t cure them.  The healing, partial and imperfect but a start towards something better, comes from within.  Director Kim Bromley sums it up in the liner notes.  “You are on your own path to discovery, as are these characters.”  I know I was.

Next to Normal  as drama, with its unflinching look deep into this family’s problems, is hard to watch.  For many, it looks to closely into their own.  But the intensity is leavened, lightened, by its presentation as a musical.  The music is driving and passionate, winsome and lyrical when it needs to be.   The singing and acting talent of each of the six on stage was uniformly superb.  I’ll briefly mention Julianne Thompson, whose nuanced performance as the teenaged daughter made this seem like a real family.  Like one you have known.  Alison Peltz’s portrayal of the bipolar Diana is beautifully, painfully accurate.

The show ends on a joyous note, a powerful anthem that brought the crowd to its feet.  So, why post a review now, when the show’s over?  Because this show, by this cast and direction, has put together a show that really ought to be seen by a much wider audience here in Marin.  I’d like to see a groundswell of support for another showing or two on a larger stage.  I know it would be difficult-to-impossible to arrange something like that.  The run is over, the set already dismantled.  But it’s a show that touched and moved me deeply, and will be impossible to forget.

Novato Theater Company:  5420 Nave Dr, Novato, CA 94949  (415) 883-4498


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