F Talkin' Broadway Off-Broadway - Crazy Head Space - 03/21/09
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Crazy Head Space

Theatre Review by Cindy Pierre

Crazy Head Space
Jennifer agnelli, Tina Jensen, Carl Anthony-Tramon, Joanna Richardson, Logan Tracey, Sarah Singer, Jacquie Aquines, Ron Nummi, Lyndsey Makovsky, and Alexandra C. Smith.
Photo by Mia Rossy.

If you're like me and are compelled to research every mood, thought or action that you or someone you know takes, you've most likely thumbed through a copy of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual by the American Psychiatric Association (the DSM IV). But, without the benefit of a demonstration or a solid frame of reference, your diagnosis, self or otherwise, may have felt inconclusive. Well, now there's hope with Elisabeth S. Davis' Crazy Head Space, a vivid, theatrical exhibit with song of some of the mental and behavioral disorders that you've always wondered about. In it, Davis takes us through an A-Z breakdown of both popular and obscure conditions that not only leap off of the page, but sometimes twirl into a pirouette, too.

From the opening sequences, Crazy Head Space is an explosion of color and sound. Most of the large ensemble is adorned in 80s costumes and dance gear that appear to be borrowed from Flash Dance, but the nostalgic feeling that they create has a nice, warming effect. The non-traditional space consists of a walkway, staircase, and 2nd floor landing, perfect for the transient nature of the show.

Each scene is devoted to a letter of the alphabet that corresponds to a condition. It's a formulaic premise that packs in a lot of information, but like the DSM IV, sometimes feels very clinical. Davis' lyrics, more diagnostic that emotional in the beginning, relax sporadically to create compelling and funny scenes. Luckily, Matthew Neff's spirited choreography keeps the audience connected to the fun.

Crazy Head Space provides a view inside of a mental ward, complete with a nurse who's also a patient, that is alternately somber, heartfelt, facetious and good fun. Between fetishes, hallucinations and psychoses, there may be a lot of choppy scene changes and a mishmash of musical styles, but the chaos serves as a metaphor for the experiences of the characters. Thanks to Errickson Wilcox's versatile direction, Crazy Head Space also has the ability to elicit a range of emotions from the audience, from pain and anguish as exhibited in the dark and dismal “Depression” to joy and giddiness during “Kleptomania” in which participants revel in “shopping without a wallet”, you'll experience a rise and fall in your own mood. And perhaps that is exactly the doorway that you need into Davis' world, a world that consists of her learning to cope with her own bipolar illness.

Crazy Head Space pays homage to mental illness, but doesn't make excuses or apologies for it. Rather, it asks us to fight for those who are afflicted, for they are just as worthy as anyone else and not that different from the rest of us. The singing may not be memorable, but the call for acceptance and unity is a crisp, resonating sound.


Crazy Head Space
Through April 5
@ Seaport!, 210 Front Street in the South Street Seaport
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix