By Jason Gale
Directed by Eleanor Piotrowski
Featuring Michelle Mainwaring and Jason Gale
Sad and funny. See these two qualities in one entity and what comes to mind immediately is 'a clown'. The classic clown, I mean, who laughs through the tears like Pagliacci or Rigoletto. Tragic comedies? Only if the audience is laughing - don't count the scripted laughter from the stage.Jason Gale's play almost makes it as a tragic comedy. We almost laugh, here and there, a funny line or a well-turned shtick.
The main character, Jasmine (expertly played by Michelle Mainwaring), is a stand-up comic and her turns in the comedy circuit are staged very realistically, with the laughter canned. One thinks of the courtiers in the Duke's palace partying it up on stage while we watch in silence as Rigoletto mocks and clowns and suffers the "maledictione".
Our audience in the performance last night did laugh, but early, and not loudly. It's only they who laugh last get to laugh loud. And nobody laughs last in this compelling and sincere production.
It is an issue play, and as such has to get the message out. It does that. The issue is manic-depression in its new guise as bipolar disorder. It is explored in the character Michael (another fine performance by the author, Jason Gale) as a kind of occasional instructor with a flip sheet. Michael is married to Jasmine.
The staging is generally well-handled with the expository scenes shifting from domestic life to comedy club to downstage spots that instruct and explain Jasmine is our Rigoletto.
Her "malediction", her curse, is bipolar disorder. She has done nothing to deserve this. Its ravages on herself, on her marriage, and on her career make up the relentless arc of the tale. In the manic phases she is but life itself, full creative comic energy, while in the depressions life deserts her.
It's an exhausting battle between to two extremes, and the tale that is told is of that battle and its outcome for these two wonderfully likeable people.
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