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Theatre Review: ‘Next To Normal,’ at The Arden

(The Arden Theatre production of "Next To Normal" stars, L-R, Robert Hager, Kristine Fraelich, and James Barry.  Photo by Mark Garvin, provided)

(The Arden Theatre production of “Next To Normal” stars, L-R, Robert Hager, Kristine Fraelich, and James Barry. Photo by Mark Garvin, provided)

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By Bob Nelson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre has opened its 25th season with an elaborate production of the 2010 Pulitzer prize-winning musical drama, “Next To Normal.”

The respected mother at the heart of this dramatic tableau is a creature loved by family but of limited power because of her constant care at the hands of psychiatrists.

While Father runs the family, Diana, the mother, is the focus of family concern and in many respects limited in her activities.

It can be said she is a prisoner of her surroundings, especially  her doctors.  And while she pretends to function as a wife and mother, she is hardly a wife in the true sense.

In later times Diana lies sedated and restrained in the hospital, with self-inflicted gashes to her wrists.  Her doctor insists that Diana is imminently suicidal, and while she eventually returns to home and family, the return is only temporary.

The New York Times says “Next To Normal” is no feel-good musical.  They called it a “feel-everything musical,” and we agree.

“Next To Normal” runs through November 4th at the Arden Theatre, 40 North Second Street, in Old City Philadelphia.

 

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