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QUINTESSENCE

More than Normal

"So let us think of people as starting life with an experience they forget, and ending it with one which they anticipate but cannot understand."
- E.M. Forster

One of the real pleasures of my time in the Big Apple was the theatre musical NEXT TO NORMAL, staring Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. This is one of those story lines in which describing too much gives away secrets and surprises important to the drama. Music by Tom Kitt, and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, NEXT TO NORMAL is truly one of those stunning artistic surprises. Difficult and dramatic subject matter - tender and furious at the same time - this musical drama eviscerates contemporary life in a way I have not seen often done: honestly, candidly, compassionately, searingly truthful. Think Chekhof sung on stage. The music - sharp, lilting and strong - carries the vulnerable dramatic performances of Mazzie and Danieley, who play a middle-aged wife and husband struggling to deal with family life, loss, and raising teenage children. What seems like an "everyday everybody" story turns out to be heartbreakingly personal.

The darkness of the theater, the willingness of actors to meld their souls to their roles, affords us a rare opportunity to see our own lives reflected on stage. There is true intimacy in the theater. The interaction between play, actors, and audience is immediate, honest, and often palpable. At points in NEXT TO NORMAL, I looked around the audience: there were tears on faces fixed on the stage. What other artistic medium invites us into the performance, witnesses to our own lives played out before us?

I support the arts: good, bad, or simply indifferent. The arts represent our dialog with ourselves. What we think about life, feel about our hopes and losses, make of our dreams. The arts are brave. And even when they are bad, they are worthwhile I believe, because the subject matter nudges us to think and reflect and understand. And when they are great, we are transformed. Do you have plans for the weekend? Buy a ticket to something on stage...enjoy the richness of our complicated humanity.

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