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Delivering Digital Prep News Since 2024

The Little Hoya

The Little Hoya

Delivering Digital Prep News Since 2024

The Little Hoya

Play Review: Next To Normal

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Next to Normal is a musical performed at the Round House Theatre that illustrates a story of how a mother of two children gradually walked out of her son’s death and fought against her psychological trauma.

Roundhouse Theater

Since it’s a musical, there must have been a band (musical support) from backstage. Unlike the Prep’s theater, where musicians will play the music under the stage, musicians play backstage at the Round House Theater, separated from the main stage through a huge glass wall. It’s an interesting design since the audience, especially those who sit on the balcony, can watch the play while noticing how musicians play their instruments. Another thing to mention about the stage setup is the background. There was a screen covering the whole stage, in which the technique crew would change the lights on it to create different objects (in other words, light effects) in each scene. 

The storyline includes that Diana, a mother of two children, lost her first son and, since then, faced the challenges of destructive psychological diseases. She would hallucinate her son growing up as a teenager, just like other normal high school students, and become part of the family, despite the fact that he has been dead for years. Because of her symptoms, she barely spent any time with her second child, Natalie, who is also a brilliant, hardworking student. In one scene, Natalie called herself an “invisible girl” to demonstrate her rather vague appearance as a family member. Over time, conflicts emerged among each family member, and all the conflicts were transformed into fantastic musical shows on the stage. Their vocal expressions succeeded in expressing their emotions and moods. 

At this point, her husband Dan appeared to be calm and responsible, and he took Diana to see different psychiatrists, trying to find the best treatment. After the failure of the traditional “pill” plan, her second psychiatrist recommended the ECT treatment, a powerful technique with potential memory loss as its side effect. 

However, the ECT treatment only improved Diana’s situation for a moment, in which she, again, remembered everything (including what happened to her son) after seeing a music box left by her son. Because of this, her daughter became more and more cynical due to both academic and family pressure, in which she was seen drunk in multiple clubs by her boyfriend. 

A Scene of Next To Normal at the Kennedy Center

After so many struggles and failures, Diana finally realized that it was time to reconcile with her trauma, so she decided to move to her parent’s house for a bit. On the other hand, Gabe (Diana’s son) also reconciled with Dan in his ghost form. The ending was what I had expected, as the family went back on the right track. 

One thing to point out was the light effect. The change in color successfully conveyed each character’s tone and mood while singing. In one scene where all five characters sang together, the light did create a sense of chaos. 

The psychiatrist (Doctor Fine), played by Calvin McCullough, also had a funny appearance: He had an extremely high volume with complex facial emotions when singing his lines, even shocking Diana as if she wondered who was the patient that needed a psychiatrist. 

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