Depression: The Musical

by Ben Prayz · August 12, 2014

Good news - Depression: The Musical won’t leave you feeling downtrodden!  Subtitled “A Depressed Girl’s Guide to Depression”, this show, conceived, written by, starring (and lived by) Marianne Pillsbury, chronicles Pillsbury’s periods of despondency and dejection, seemingly during a 10 or 15 year period of time.  (Pillsbury states her age, I believe, as 38).  The show opens on Pillsbury listening to tapes of herself singing as a little girl, while she now tries to compose a song, ostensibly for this very musical.  We are then introduced to “the committee in Marianne’s head”, as well as various others in her life including her therapist, Joy (!), physician, sister, girlfriend, and the jazz musician who was the catalyst for lifting her out of her depression.

The twelve musical numbers are generally geared towards a rock/pop sensibility.  Although the second number “The Great Depression of the New Millennium” was quite appealing, there seemed to be more musical variation within the second six songs of the dozen presented.   “Happy Disbelief”, “Bordering on Beautiful”, and particularly “Is it Me”, one of the only songs accompanied, for the most part, solely by piano (other instruments in the excellent band include bass, guitar and drums) were standouts.  This number also allowed Pillsbury’s voice to be heard, both literally and figuratively.  It was the one number where, instead of a situation or character being presented, shown or explained , there was deeper insight into Pillsbury’s plight.  Essentially, the song asks, which came first?  The depressed state or the conditions which created them?  (No press packet was provided, so additional hearings of the music or perusal of the script was not possible for this review).  Towards the show’s end we learn that Pillsbury met a jazz musician, through a volunteer opportunity, who encouraged her to the point of lifting her out of her depression. 

Pillsbury plays herself and may of the other people in her life.  Three other performers, Hayley Bridgewater, Hillary Maloney, and Vanessa Theus take on the role of a kind of Greek chorus, providing commentary here and there and playing one or two roles throughout.   Even though they are introduced as the “committee in Marianne’s head”, and were wonderful singers and movers, there didn’t seem to be a specificity as to what aspects of Marianne they were there to represent. 

While Depression doesn’t, well, depress, it doesn’t quite delve into or explore the nuances and underpinnings of (what the APA calls) this “mood disorder”.  It is a presentation of the different situations that have caused it (break-up, professional dissatisfaction, family, etc.) and the various methods used to try to resolve it (therapy, medication, relationships, etc.).   Eventually, and suddenly, Marianne overcomes, or at least finds a way to live with, her depression.  This resolve culminates in this very musical (the chronicling of which is a sub-plot throughout).  A more probing examination would have provided me with a catharsis equal to the one seemingly experienced by Pillsbury.





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