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Theatre Review (LA): Insanity by deTurk and Mellon at the NoHo Arts Center

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The NoHo Arts Center has a new musical from the writers of Dorian and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Scott deTurk (music and lyrics) and James Mellon (book and additional lyrics). Insanity is presented by a company made up of very talented writers, actors, and directors; most of the material this group produces is initiated from within the company and usually represents a work in progress. Such is the case with the new musical.

The plot involves a film director, Zarek Saxton (Kevin Bailey), who sets out to make a picture that will change the world but instead ends up making a slasher film. He shuts down the picture and takes a strong drug that leaves him wandering the streets naked. The studio liaison, Ramsey Hawking (Bob Morrisey), seizes the chance to use an insanity clause in the contract to put Saxton in an institution, hoping he will be declared insane and thus freeing the studio of any obligations.

What follows is fairly standard fare, the sort of thing that has been better done in The Madwoman of Chaillot and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The moral is that normal may be insane and vice versa. But in this case the musical is also an attempt to satirize Hollywood and its mores.

The cast is a mixed bag, with outstanding performances by Bob Morrisey, Kevin Bailey, and Dana Miller as the psychiatrist in charge of the case. The problem is that there are some elements of the script, like Saxton’s drug-induced frenzy, that leave Mr. Bailey, a really fine performer, having to start at such a high level he has nowhere to go.

Bob Morrisey is given a really lame number called “The Greater Good” where he tries to convince the nurse that labeling Saxton insane is the best outcome for all concerned, but he has to do so doing a silly soft-shoe routine. The music is serviceable, sometimes rising to very good, but the lyrics are of the “bad”-“sad” variety, which isn’t the most expressive way to sell a lyric.

My biggest problem with the show is its message that people would be better off without drugs even if they are bipolar. Many manics believe they are more creative when they let their emotions flow freely. Unfortunately this would be true in only the mildest of cases, and does a disservice to medical professionals and patients involved in drug management of a very serious problem.

Insanity plays at the NoHo Arts Center until Aug 9.

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