Nannette Deasy, the artistic director of the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble attended opening night of Anthony J. Piccione’s semi-autobiographical tale of dealing with mental illness.
A Therapy Session with Myself, currently running monthly at the Kraine Theatre, is a thought-provoking and entertaining exploration of one artist’s struggle to move through mental disorder to a better self-understanding and state of self-acceptance and worth.
Crisply written with a strong supporting cast, the play has already begun well before the audience has even taken their seats. As we enter the theatre, we find Alex, the protagonist (played beautifully by Nick Roy), already onstage working (or, rather, procrastinating) – trapped inside his own four walls and dark thoughts. (I particularly like the conceit that the world of the play is already in progress well before I, as an audience member, have joined it). Alex is shortly joined by You (the very likable Shane Zimmerman), another aspect of Alex – perhaps his better self. You is a more self-aware, confident, and healthier version of Alex and is determined to shake some sense into his real-world double. Together, they remember, dissect and debate the past as enacted by their third incarnation, Me (played with wonderful vulnerability by Nathan Cusson) and an ensemble of talented performers (Emma Romeo, Louise Heller, Tony Bozanich, Travis Martin, Alexander Pepper, Nicholas Capriotti, Rosie Coursey and Lizzy Moreno).
What impressed me a lot about both the writing and performances is that Alex’s (and You’s and Me’s) self analysis never veers too deeply towards self pity. Yes, there is sorrow, anger and confusion, but the characters, for the most part, are genuinely trying to work things out with honesty and candor.
Friends and family are often angered by Alex, and his relationships are shown to frequently fall apart. We, as the audience, rarely get to see the reasons for and the specifics behind these fights and breaking points. This is quite possibly because Alex, himself, doesn’t understand them or have the tools to recognize his own inappropriate behavior. Subsequently, the audience, having only the three versions of Alex for a narrator, doesn’t get to know them either. A Therapy Session with Myself doesn’t present answers to the problems being confronted by the protagonist and his other selves, and it shouldn’t. The play is a continuing exploration and conversation about the personal nature of mental health, the value of art and the importance of moving forward.
I highly recommend A Therapy Session with Myself. This engaging play is only presented monthly, so be sure to not miss it when it returns to the Kraine June 15.