Kari Ginsburg’s struggling Diana could be any of us, torn apart by a tragedy that her mind’s been unable to cope with for nearly two decades. Her struggle is sympathetic, even as it has a ripple effect on everyone around her, from her steadfast-but-in-denial husband, Dan (Chad Wheeler), to her neglected stress ball of a daughter, Natalie (Caroline Dubberly). Mark A. Rhea and Colin Smith have put together a production that’s light on flash, but heavy on heart (though the electricity-invoking lighting that accents the Act 2 opener is still a nice touch).
Diana’s ultimate path towards managing her disease may not be what many psychotherapists would choose for her. But it’s harder to argue with some of the show’s final lyrics: “Give me clouds, and rain and gray. Give me pain, if that’s what’s real, it’s the price we pay to feel.” The world may be ugly at times, but Next to Normal unflinchingly refuses to look away from reality, even when it gets messy.