By Linda Ayres-Frederick
“How are you?” sounds like a casual enough question for anyone to ask but when you are depressed and waiting the mandatory ten days to get approval to purchase a firearm to off yourself, simply answering “not good at all” takes on a lot more dimension.
In Brian Copeland’s brilliantly performed and carefully crafted solo piece The Waiting Period, now playing at the Marsh in San Francisco, he is asked that question so many times by so many close relations that it takes a lot of energy to hide the truth of what he is up to. Dealing with depression can be a dark journey, but Copeland mines the humor of it and the audience is given plenty of opportunity to laugh out loud. Yes, he touches on the serious sides as well and for anyone who has struggled with depression, those symptoms are easily recognized. Being left by his wife (with three kids to still care for), losing the grandmother who had raised him and still recovering from a serious car accident are enough to put anyone over the edge.
As we count the days of the waiting period with him, it becomes obvious that he hasn’t killed himself, but the 70 minute story he tells of how he came to survive his own dark intention is riveting. He fully embodies other characters, morphing instantly from one to another: a teenage girl with a similar inclination, his no nonsense grandmother, the dude selling the gun, a self-important super dad, and his own concerned daughter to name a few.
Created with David Ford who also worked with Copeland on the smash hit Not a Genuine Black Man, The Waiting Period is a show that surpasses its desire to educate and help others who are dealing with the disease. As Copeland mentions, many well-known figures have suffered from debilitating bouts of depression: Mike Wallace, Tipper Gore, Yves Saint Laurent among them. While misery may love company, he also points out that when depressed, one feels isolated and alone.
Copeland hopes that this very personal and ultimately redemptive story will reach people who struggle with what is often called “the last stigmatized disease” as well as their families and loved ones. And that whoever, wherever, whenever depression hits, we realize that there is help to be had and how important it is to ask for or offer that help.
In The Waiting Period, Copeland has done more than cope with his own depression, he has brought it out into the light and given us all a gift of understanding intelligently and soulfully delivered from the inside out.
The Waiting Period written and performed by Brian Copeland, directed by David Ford plays Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm through April 27. (no performance Sat. April 21) at The Marsh 1062 Valencia St, SF $15-$50. 415.282.3055 www.themarsh.org Recommended for ages 14 and over.