Archives for Plays & Musicals
Bipolar disorder—mental illness in general—has not fared well in popular culture. "Crazy" patients and "crazier" doctors populate story lines based on stereotypes and stigma. The last few years have seen some evolution toward more realistic portrayals and narratives, including the movie Silver Linings Playbook and the Broadway musical Next to Normal, telling human stories of illness rather than just punchlines. Add to this burgeoning cannon a new Netflix comedy, Lady Dynamite, by the comedian Maria Bamford.
Last night my wife and I watched Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking – the HBO film version of her solo Broadway performance based on her book of the same title. In Wishful Drinking, Fisher recounts the emotional ups and downs of her childhood and career and her struggles with depression and mania, all in a very humorous way. One thing that struck me, and I've noticed this in other situations, is that families are often pretty screwed up and sometimes it's the most "normal" person in the family, the one who seems to really have it all together, takes the hit and ends up with the bipolar label. Then the family treats that person as the crazy one – the problem. I can't claim that this is usually how it plays out, but I've observed it in a couple cases.
Last week I saw the Broadway musical Next To Normal – with music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. As a big fan of Broadway, I was anxious to see this rock musical that has become quite a sensation and has won two Tony awards – for Best Original Score and for Best Actress in a Musical (Alice Ripley). I was particularly interested because Next To Normal tells the story of a family grappling with Bipolar Disorder.