Theatre 444 gets ready to take center stage with performances of Next to Normal at the Pat Collins Black Box Theater at the Geneva Community Center on May 2, 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. as well as Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m.
Next to Normal, an American rock musical with lyrics written by Brian Yorkey and music scored by Tom Kitt tells the tale of a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder while balancing the illness’ adverse effects upon her family.
“It is a really important story for smaller communities,” Director Pam Rapoza said.
In essence, Next to Normal attempts to “normalize that we all have struggles.”
Laura D. Feligno describes her portrayal of Diana Goodman as a mother and wife who suffers from bipolar disorder through a “fluid process.”
Nick Bessette, who plays Dan Goodman, husband of Diana shared that the realities surrounding mental illness should be “talked about without a stigma.”
“Mental health should be seen as physical health,” Bessette said.
In a similar sense, “Diana shares her uncensored feelings and Dan shields the truth,” Feligno shared.
With Rapoza, Feligno and Bessette each holding professions in education, contemporary concerns surrounding mental illness awareness has arisen among the group, reminding them while at work as well.
Although the play has its dark and depressing moments, it is still “unflinching but with humor and hope,” Bessette stated.
“It is a balanced performance with levity,” Feligno added.
After Friday evening’s showing, a panel consisting of experts and specialists in mental health will discuss and process the performance of Next to Normal with linger members of the audience.
Cathy Collins, a social worker at Geneva Middle School; Beth Lynch, a spiritualist; Meredith Beckley, a nurse with a specialization in addiction treatment and Next to Normal’s composer as well as Richelle Coons, a mental health patient and fellow member of the cast will be present for the post-performance panel to talk about the story of the play and mental illness more generally.
Participating in the panel is optional and at no additional cost for those attending but shall only take place after the performance on Friday, May 3 and last for a duration of 20 to 30-minutes.
Tickets cost $15 each during the presale event and $18 at the door.
Those seeking additional information may visit www.theatre444.com for more information.
– Reporting & Photos by Gabriel Pietrorazio
An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently an intern reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at [email protected].