Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Visiting. It was by Ed Proudfoot, and it was directed by Carrie Lee Patterson. It is about a young woman named Penny (Sarah Wisterman) who is suffering from manic-depression and her family has been hiding something from her: that her Aunt Lauren (Julie Proudfoot), who also has depression, is really her mom. But Penny still wants to have an actual life outside the hospital, so Penny and her family have these picnics where they talk about what they should do. When they get there they seem like they are just going to sit around and talk, but every time there is more to the picnic than that. It is about family, depression, and taking risks to have a better life. I thought that this was a really heartbreaking, effective, and beautiful show.
This play was very sad to me because of the pain you could see all the characters were feeling. Penny and Aunt Lauren are very close to each other even before Penny knew they were mother and daughter. They are not just sad because of their own depression but because of the other's suffering because they feel so close to the other and feel responsible for each other. Rachel (Millicent Hurley) was the woman who raised Penny and was always known to Penny as her mom, even though she was her mom's sister. Her pain was because she felt like she had done so much for Lauren and Lauren still wasn't completely better. And she thinks of Penny as her own daughter and she is worried about her daughter killing herself. And her pain is also because she misses her own mom so much. Holly (Carin Silkaitis) is the rebel sister of Rachel and Lauren. She lives in Chicago, while the rest of her sisters stayed in Indiana, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. She wants everyone to listen to her. She doesn't seem like a person who would feel a lot of pain, but by the end you see her kind of broken down. Even though Holly is really mad at Lauren, they still have a really strong bond, and you really see Holly regret her choices about how she speaks to her sister. Carol (Maggie Cain) is the wife of the sisters' brother. She is very religious and almost too sweet. I think she is the happiest of all of them, because she seems kind of oblivious, but she has her own problems with her marriage. I think the writer wanted all these characters to seem very vulnerable and relatable. But they are all still fighting to have normal lives and they try to help each other out even though they all have their differences.
I thought it was interesting how they used just a picnic table and screens for the set (design by Eric Luchen), but it worked for everything: the hospital, the house, and the rest stop. There was one section where they used blinking lights (lighting design by Rebecca A. Barrett) and an alert sound (design by Kallie Rolison) to show that Penny has escaped from the hospital. They also use blinking lights when she is having her treatments done. I think they use the blinking lighting in both instances to signify the danger she is in. When she escapes from the hospital she is in danger because she might kill herself. The play doesn't completely show them solving that, but she is alive in the next scene so you assume they did. The treatments are dangerous because they might not work and it will be a lot of pain for nothing. I thought the language was super interesting. It was very poetic but it wasn't Shakespearean. It was very realistic at the same time. They would talk to each other like real people who were in reality, but a reality that was altered by the strange lens of depression. I think this is a really good choice for this show because it gives you a sense of the strangeness of what the world seems like when you're depressed, and that is really effective. The set also helped give you a sense of that strangeness because it was all mellow colors that didn't really draw your attention to the set but to the story, which makes it more audience inclusive.
People who would like this show are people who like picnics, heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, and flying chicken tea towels. I think people should go see this show. It is a beautiful story. I really enjoyed it.
Photos: Kat Tushim