Thursday, December 01, 2016

Opening Minds - Still/Falling - Play Review

Still/Falling - A Green Thumb Theatre at Young People's Theatre - Studio Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Rachel Aberle, Directed by Patrick McDonald
Runs until Dec. 9th 2016. Continues on Tour. 

While a delightful Seussical warms the heart in the YPT downstairs theatre, upstairs in the studio in Still/Falling,  actress Olivia Hutt is breaking hearts in her one-woman portrayal of of an angst-ridden, typical teenage girl trying to deal with anxiety and depression in a play by Rachel Aberle that presents mental health in a very matter-of-fact way.

The play, and Hutt, almost underplay things as she plays various roles in the life of a "normal" teenager. Presenting teenage girl Nina as someone who has friends, does well in school, and yet still has mental health issues, sets up a realistic portrayal of understanding of mental health, all while everyone else in her life is either blind to her anxiety attacks, or helpless in trying to help her along.

Hutt switches back from Nina to the people surrounding her life, from her perfect mom, glammed up therapist, annoying little brother, her friends, her boyfriend, and Hutt does a remarkable job of switching the emotions while keeping the narrative easily in check. With some great integration of video projections (by Cameron Fraser) on a beautiful simple unit set (by Ken MacDonald, that just hints enough of a tilt in an organized structure hinting at Nina's mind), the times and places are easily recognized in split second scene changes despite the simple directions of the play.

While we were told before the play that it deals with mental health in a non-suicidal manner, Aberle's play definitely goes deep and far more intensely then its calm set up and nicely underplayed manner hints it will. The play nicely presents without judgement how even this girl with normal issues and a seemingly normal life, can still be affected by mental health. While it does not offer solutions, Still/Falling opens our eyes to something that probably affects those around us as it goes on invisibly, unbeknownst to us. While the play is geared towards young people, it's a pretty good reminder and eye opener for those of any age that anybody can be afflicted with anxiety and despair and there is no easy solution, but understanding is the first step.

Photo by Moonrider Productions
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