Saturday, June 27, 2009

review - Insanity

Left to right: psychiatrist (Dana Meller) and patient (Kevin Bailey)

music & lyrics by Scott DeTurk
book & additional lyrics by James J. Mellon
based on a concept by Larry Russo
directed by James J. Mellon
through August 9

Within its first year of production (2004-2005) NoHo ACE (Arts Center Ensemble) created the marvelous original musicals Dorian The Musical and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The newest, Insanity, by the same creative team of DeTurk & Mellon, is by far their most genuine effort. Grounded in the reality of treating manic depression, the piece explores both sides of the coin, and not unlike One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - but with a far more optimistic ending and uplifting tunes - shows that affliction with a disease may indeed be more a gift than a burden. As in Nest, the characterizations are carefully and ingeniously drawn, here by James J. Mellon and ebulliently portrayed by an outstanding cast.
Kevin Bailey is dynamically right on target in his portrayal of Zarek Saxton. Painful as it is to watch mood swings of manic depression, it is fascinating and enjoyable to watch Bailey go in and out of them from an acting standpoint. Every move/feeling is full and complete, but never over the top. Dana Meller as Dr. Megan Goodman brings patience & strength to this most difficult role. Torn between taking the case and her own personal feelings, she is engaging at every turn and wins our sympathy. One line of hers stays with me: "I hate it when they make sense", referring to her charges and the normal side of their abnormality. Sabrina Miller as sexy actress Katelyn Keenan knows how to turn on the charm and appeal to suit her own selfish needs, and does so quite deliciously. Kudos as well to Joanathan Zenz as Matt, Zarek's straight-laced brother, to Curtis C as the attendant and God Ovacu, and to all the patients, from religious fanatic to homosexual to repressed opera singer to an overweight blackman who fantasizes being impregnated by an alien: they all have unique moments of brilliance: Cat Davis, Clarissa Park, Brad Blaisdell, Arthur Ross, Alex Robert Holmes, and Victor Warren.
There are many terrific songs, highlights among them "You Couldn't Write This Shit", "Normal" and "It's Time For Me to Change the World".
What exactly the greater good means has been the issue of several pieces, including Cuckoo's Nest and Equus, the most mainstream, but the majority have been straight plays. Very few musicals dare to explore the depths of illness, and the consequences of treatment on the patients and the effects on those around them. NoHo ACE once again sticks its neck out and takes a risk. What results is simply splendid! I was totally engaged from start to finish.
5 out of 5 stars


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