Next To Normal
Next To Normal – Theater Review
When Alice Ripley returns home from her first electroshock treatment in Next to Normal, which opened April 15 at the Booth, she doesn’t recognize the place — or her daughter. What she does recognize, and clings to for dear life, is a figment of her eschewed imagination, and it falls to the audience to sort out this tangled psyche.
“Next to Normal” is a little under review, because it’s not your classic musical. It’s not about a charlatan coming to town, and teaching the kids to play instruments. He then starts falling in love with a librarian. It’s a story of a woman who may be bi-polar, may be schizophrenic, and the chaos that it creates in her family, and in the music. And you may say “eww”, but there are number of reasons not to say “eww”. Number one, Alice Ripley as a mom is just terrific. She has a great voice. I really liked it as a psychologist, because it focuses on a really important issue, of not only mental illness, but the effect it has on the entire family. Someone said, “gee it might have worked better as a non musical”, but it wouldn’t have. It would have been preachy and heavy, and hard to watch. This one is mental illness, not as entertainment, but at least as enlightenment, and for that I gave it at least four stars. The rest of the cast is uniformly good, but Alice certainly stands out. If you want to have a challenging evening at the theater, that is emotionally rousing, if not particularly fun, “Next to Normal” is exactly what the doctor ordered.