By Louie Goldsmith
In the Black Box on Friday, January 30 the cast of the Emerson Festival play debuted their show “Manic Panic”. The show was written and directed by senior Noa Goihberg, and follows a family that has been greatly affected by mental illness. Protagonist Lee Kirshner (Kaitlynd Collins) has manic depression, and lives with her mother, Laura (Rosa Stern Pait), and Brother, Jason (Trevor LaSalvia). The play takes place during February vacation when the family is visited by Lee’s and Jason’s Aunt Marcia (Sami Higgins) and Cousin Gemma (Noa Petler).
The show follows a number of story-lines all based around Lee’s depression. The one that takes the forefront is her relationship with Jason. Both had been young kids with big dreams. Jason, who had worked hard to succeed, graduated from college, but was having trouble finding success in a programing career. Lee, meanwhile, seemed to have lost herself and was working as a ticket seller.
Because Jason is unaware of his sister’s predicament at the beginning of the show, he constantly tells her to pick herself up and move on with her life. The play works hard to communicate how little many people who have family members with mental illness understand about their loved one’s situation. Though Lee is on the road to recovery, LaSalvia, once he learns of Lee’s diagnosis, successfully shows that though Jason wants the best for his sister, he does not fully understand how to help her.
Aunt Marcia and Gemma showed up early on in the show and Gemma’s teenage sarcasm and usage of technology drew laughs from the audience. However, much of their roles came later in the show regarding Lee’s illness. Higgins did a great job showing how she was trying to shield her daughter from the situation in the house around them. Petler did well playing the part of a young girl who had seen her cousin’s symptoms, but was unsure of what they meant.
Much of the mystery of the show surrounds one character in particular: the father. When he was younger, Lee and Jason’s father had shared Lee’s symptoms and as a result had committed suicide. Both children miss him dearly, and Jason views him as someone to measure up to, despite his illness.
With amazing acting and wonderful directing, “Manic Panic” communicated many ideas surrounding mental illness to the audience. It left the audience thinking about how people who do not have mental illness treat people who do, and why they do so.
Louie Goldsmith can be contacted at [email protected]
Photos by Claudia Hermano.