Normal is a word that is hard to explain because every person has a different perspective on what normal is to them. Average, conforming, standard and usual are just some words that describe the word normal. In the production, Next to Normal, a family tries to be or maintain just that.
Next to Normal is a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Drama winner that tells an engaging story of a family dealing with the tragedies and realities of modern society through a dramatic rock musical production full of emotional ballads.
Next to Normal unfolds with an average looking suburban family that consists of a wife, husband and their two adolescent children. Quickly, the audience learns that everything is not so normal.
|Sam Swerczek as Gabe, Jeffrey Pierce as Dan, Angela Jenson-Frey as Diana, Thomas Gjere as Henry, Grace Bydalek as Natalie, Joe Dignoti as Dr. Madden|
The characters all give important contributing factors that help interweave the message together. Here are some of the actors from the production giving a little insight to their character.
Angela Jenson-Frey plays Diana, the overly-medicated mother who suffers from bipolar disorder. “I have some personal experience with the disease, as someone very close to me has been diagnosed with it. Watching and seeing the entire cyclical evolution of it manifest right before my eyes has been eye-opening to me in terms of being able to relate to the character. That's what drew me to this show in the first place,” said Angela.
|Jeffrey Pierce and Angela Jenson-Frey as Dan and Diana|
Angela feels this show can relate to many people. “For anyone who has struggled with a mental illness of any kind, or has a loved one, who does, I think this show helps us to know that we are not alone in the struggle,” said Angela. “But at the same time, it is empowering in that it shows great independence in making one's own decisions about what's best for them.”
This show relates to everyone in terms of struggling to be normal or what normal means to them. “This production holds a little mirror up to everyone's lives, whether they struggle with a mental disorder or not, that proves that none of us are perfect and none of us are normal,” said Angela. “Who gets to define what is normal, anyway? We all have pain, we suffer losses but we love and we get through it. Live with what's real. And I think that's something everyone can relate to.”
|Thomas Gjere and Grace Bydalek as Henry and Natalie|
“The stress to be perfect is not uncommon for girls of my age; there seems to be a constant fear of mediocrity and of not reaching your full potential,” said Grace. “There are also very few people that Natalie relates to, and when she runs across them, they become very important in her life. Natalie is also stressed about the college process, which I can definitely relate to!”
“We can also all relate, in one way or another, to the issues between mother and daughter, father and son,” said Grace. “For being a musical, it is a raw snapshot of a dysfunctional family struggling with abnormal circumstances.”
|Sam Swerczek and Angela Jenson-Frey as Gabe and Diana|
Sam Swerczek is playing Gabe, the son of Diane and brother to Natalie. “He is an enigmatic character who may come off a bit arrogant or needy at times, but there just might be a reason for that,” said Sam.
“I think this musical will strike a chord with many of the people who come to see it,” said Sam. “It is a bit intense and brooding at times, but there is a beautiful message about accepting what is and learning to deal with it. I think audiences will dig it!”
This thought-provoking musical production beautifully interweaves the story together through diverse characters and marvelous music.
Don’t miss this dramatic play, Next to Normal, Feb. 7-March 16 in the Howard Drew Theatre at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Tickets are $40 for adults and $24 for students. For groups of 12 or more, adult tickets are $29 and student tickets are $18. For more information please call (402) 553-0080, or visit the Box Office or click here.
This production contains strong language and adult situations intended for mature audiences.
Story by Yoyo Ma
Story by Yoyo Ma