Got someone within your family circle who’s more of a challenge to love than most, on account of the fact that he or she suffers from a serious mental illness? Welcome to the club, friend: Your situation is more common than you might guess. In fact, you might call it next to normal.
Next to Normal is also the title of a rock musical that was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2009 and won three. In 2010 it claimed the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: an unusual honor indeed for a stage musical. The Broadway production ran for nearly two years and grossed more in ticket sales than any other play that has ever run at the Booth Theatre. It then went on to tour nationally. There have since been scores of regional productions in the US and Canada, not to mention translated versions in at least 17 other countries around the globe.
With book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, Next to Normal tells the story of a bereaved mother’s descent into bipolar I disorder with psychotic features (including persistent hallucinations of her dead son) and the effects of her worsening illness on the rest of her family. It deals with issues like suicide, controversial treatments like hypnosis and electroconvulsive therapy and the tendency to overmedicate the severely mentally ill to the point where they can feel nothing at all.
The play has been praised for its sympathetic portrayal of the psychotic character Diana as someone who can eventually get better and learn to fend for herself, rather than as a stereotypical throwaway “crazy person” or just a helpless drain on her family. The New York Times called Next to Normal “something much more than a feel-good musical: a feel-everything musical, which asks you, with operatic force, to discover the liberation in knowing where it hurts.”
This weekend only, the Trinity Players are bringing a new production of Next to Normal to the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, directed by Chris Vallone with musical direction by Amy Gustin. Kevin Archambault, who has been directing some of the best shows at the Center this past year or so, will get a chance to flex his acting skills this time around. Also in the cast are Nathan Dotson, Marta Fuerst, Heather Martyn, Wendell Schereer and Chris Vallone.
Evening performances of Next to Normal will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, February 14 and 15, with matinées at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, February 15 and 16. Regular ticket prices are $26 and $24, available online at www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=6ee3a040ae7bca55636916d8cdbfad4d or by calling the box office at (845) 876-3080. And because this is a show about a tough kind of love, the Center is offering a Valentine Special: Bring a date to any performance of this show and get two tickets for $44, purchased at the door only.
Trinity Players present Next to Normal, Friday/Saturday, February 14/15, 8 p.m., Saturday/Sunday, February 15/16, 3 p.m., $26/$24/two for $44, Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, 661 Route 308, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-3080, https://centerforperformingarts.org.