Have you ever had the dream where you go to work naked? You look down and realize all at once that strangers and friends are staring in shock, and your feet won’t take you away from the shame fast enough? Now get on stage and talk about your naked dream, your worst nightmare, the problem you cannot wake up from, the taboo, the hurt. Daunting, right? Almost Together is a mashup of my three favorite things: music, awareness, and total guts.
Directed by Steven Cupo and accompanied by Abbey Smith, Mary Leaphart tells her story of her personal battle with Bipolar, a disease she began showing symptoms of while in college. Confused by its grasp, and longing for the peace of childhood, Mary brings the audience through the initial stages of recognition and diagnosis. Though it includes a moderate amount of exposition, the show’s most used vehicle is song. Mary sings of her feelings of invincibility as a child (“Fly Away”), and the incredible highs Bipolarity also brings (“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”). “Come On Get Happy” is one of the sharp stand-out numbers, as the world tries to tell her happiness is easy, if she would just, well, get happy. She can’t, she exclaims, just “get happy.”
Her journey is quickly pulled into Bipolar’s dark underbelly, as recalled through a number of songs sang sweetly, and gently, but with a broken (or at least aching) heart. The room hurts for her as she sings “Both Sides Now,” and “Out of My Head,” and pulls for her as she sings “Breathe” and “Gravity.” We want her to get better, because she doesn’t just tell us about the stops along the way; she brings us there with her.
Mary is an engaging and sympathetic storyteller. At times she appears to be transported back completely to these times of despair, staring off into the space as if fixed on a point she’s not sure is even there. Her story is moving, and gains strength as the show dives deeper down the rabbit hole.
by Mary Leaphart
at Caos on F
923 F Street NW
Washington, DC, 20004
Details and tickets
Almost Together is a musical palette of the trials experienced through mental illness. For those unfamiliar with the disease, some may not be aware the emotions go far beyond the land of “sad” or “depressed,” to elated, hopeless, sentimental, wistful, hurt, broken, resurrected, and back again. In her words, it’s “the beauty and the brutality.” The musical choices not only cover but accurately convey this unstable terrain.
That taboo associated with the discussion of mental illness is a small tragedy within itself, which makes Mary’s fearless and raw production all the more important, and encouraging. She’s been to the bottom and back, and not only will she tell you about it, she will tell you how she got out of it. She will show you her tattoo, and she will tell it hasn’t been easy, and then she will tell you there’s hope. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.”