CAOS on F
Friday, July 19,5:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, 6:45 p.m. Friday, July 26, 11:15 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 5:45 p.m.
They say: “A lifetime of struggle with mental illness in 60 minutes. Witness the sheer elation, despair, utter hopelessness, humor and triumph that all play a part in bipolar disorder. Celebrate the raw and joyous truth through song and story.”
Cara’s Take: Mary Leaphart has been extremely brave in putting together this show. It’s a warm, personal, humorous look at an illness that can be devastating both to the person experiencing it and the friends and family surrounding her.
Having said that, this feels like a rough draft of a deeper show yet to come. The songs are strung together with too few moments of personal story between them. I would have liked the songs to emerge more organically from the story being told than illustrations of brief anecdotes or descriptions.
Two moments in particular offer a hint of what this could become. The first is Leaphart’s rendition of the classic “Get Happy.” It begins as a light and joyful performance and, through interjected phrases by her accompanist and an increasingly jangly and discordant arrangement, becomes an indictment of all the “power of positive thinking” bromides that family, friends, and acquaintances say.
The second moment comes near the end of the show. The spoken story before the song “Breathe” has a depth of emotion and specific illustrations that her other spoken intrdouctions lack. She then transitions directly from that song into “Gravity.” I found myself moved by how raw that segment felt in contrast to the rest of the performance.
A late timeslot and a cold theater probably account for how thin Leaphart’s voice was. Her phrasing was always excellent, with close attention paid to the lyrics, but she had a great deal of uncontrolled vibrato and a few moments that were definitely off-pitch. Accompanist Abbey Smith was consistently excellent through an evening that left her little respite.
I would love to see a deeper iteration of this show next year. Leaphart has attempted something extraordinary, and I think she may yet accomplish it. I know it moved one fellow audience member to tears.
See it if: you know anyone with a mental illness. Leaphart sketches the highs, lows, and consequences of her personal story.
Skip it if: You’re looking for a show that’s more hard-hitting.