NEXT TO NORMAL // You Had Me At…

Before you read any further, be warned, this is going to discuss a spoiler about the plot of NEXT TO NORMAL. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue reading below the picture.

Jessica Henday as Diana, Mike Schwitter as Gabe & Mark Hardy as Dan. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

I think my love for theater was triggered by one of those rare magical moments. When you’re watching a performance, and something special just…happens…and it’s a moment you’ll always remember. One happened to me, opening night at ETC.

Let me preface this with: I don’t get surprised frequently in theater, tv or movies. (I do startle easily but that is a totally different issue). I tend to pick up on the script or acting clues that give hints of what is coming..I may not always know what the twist is, but usually figure out that something is amiss and start looking for it. Cynics tell me it’s just because I see too much theater and watch too much TV. 🙂

I went into NTN with my knowledge of the show based on the ETC’s press information. I hadn’t heard the music or been told any details about the plot. All I had heard was, “it’s a great show” and “I can’t wait to see it.”

Unfortunately when I see theater, a portion of my mind is making little mental notes for later review about directing or acting choices, lights, costumes, set etc, etc.

I’m enjoying the show, trying to take it all in…and it gets to the point where Henry is invited into dinner.

And they do the dinner scene and a little mental note goes off saying “why are five people having dinner but there are only four chairs,” followed by “hmmm, why didn’t mom ‘have dinner,’ oh it’s choreographed that way because the number is so short.”  Followed shortly by, “what do they mean, ‘whose birthday?’

And then there is that moment of realization…GABE ISN’T REALLY THERE! I quickly turned to Chuck Beatty, my plus one for the evening, with my best “WTF” face.

Then the implications of ‘Gabe isn’t really there” hit me. And immediately my heart goes out to Diane as I’m overwhelmed by the depth of her loss and pain. Also my perception of each character in that family is knocked askew and I have to re-calibrate how this must have affected each of them.

Meanwhile, my mental note taker is frantically flipping back pages and reviewing how Gabe interacted with everyone on stage and they with him since the beginning of the play. And I realized there had been clues all along that I missed.

How awesome is that?

I will never forget how I felt in that moment. The sudden emotional connection between me and everything that was happening on that stage. You had me. I laughed a little. I cried more than a little. I hoped for a happy ending. Then hoped them all a chance at a happier tomorrow.

I just wanted to thank everyone who shared their talents on that NEXT TO NORMAL. And let you know that you were a part of one of those magical theater moments for me.

Click here for more information on ETC”S NEXT TO NORMAL.

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