Ryan Dancho’s Caught Dreaming brings to life the people who suffer from manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. It is a relevant play, considering 5.7 million people are bipolar, almost 10 million people will develop the illness sometime during their lives, and about half of those will never receive the correct diagnosis or treatment. It’s sad to say, but over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the people who love them and have their lives disrupted simply by caring.
The worse part of this disease is the treatment leaves the victim feeling even more helpless as the drugs dull the highs they get from the manic episodes. It is euphoric being manic; unfortunately, the destruction in their wake is akin to a hurricane slamming into you.
In Caught Dreaming, we follow Judah (a fabulous Nick Webster), a schizoaffective, who hallucinates about the life he would love to have with his daughter (Hailee Drew) and listens to the voices he hears. He is in a form of group therapy with Angelo (Jarvis Griggs), who’s gay and manic-depressive, and Elle (Gabrielle Greer), a bipolar who is a photographer and Judah’s lover. The two are collaborating on a book of photography and writing that chronicles Judah’s bad days, but for now, Judah is on the mend. When Dr. Weir (Aaron Morton) introduces a new depressed patient, Brady (Ryan Wesen), things become complicated.
The group discusses medications – which they both love and hate – bond friendships, and cross boundaries.
Judah is upset that Elle is not as passionate as she once was. Could it be the drugs? No longer happy at feeling blasé, Judah hates his meds and claims his life sucks. The side effects of the drugs include a non-existent sex drive, significant weight gain, feeling numb and even more depressed. Judah also has writer’s block, so he stops taking his meds and goes off the deep end. For Judah, “loneliness is its own kind of madness.”
The cast is first-rate and understands the material. They bring home the realization that through no fault of their own these issues are hard to feel sympathy for as they seriously affect the others in their circle. Mr. Webster especially impressed me, as I have dated and known several people with this disorder and he nailed it.
Sara Rademacher’s direction allowed the story to tell itself and was inventive at how she used the stage. Yu-ting’s set was simple but effective, and the lighting by Patrick Bakalli and sound designs by Daniel Vaughn were perfectly done.
For a first play, Mr. Dancho’s work is prolific and thought-provoking. His dialogue was realistic as he captured my attention and made me want to learn more. I look forward to watching Mr. Dancho’s play progress and seeing what he brings to the table next.
This is a must see for anyone who knows or loves someone with one of these disorders or has one themselves.
NY Summerfest: Caught Dreaming closed.