Green* Disclaimer: I am not (nor do I claim to be) a professional theatre critic. Instead, consider this a plebeian’s opinion of the arts. Real people have feelings, too.
There are few things as easy to butcher as portrayals of mental illness or abuse on stage. Some actors will try too hard to embody their illness becoming awkwardly comedic caricatures of real conflicts. Others will err in the opposite direction, reminding us they are not “normal” only when their dialogue reminds us.
Knowing how easy it is for actors to fall into this tropes, it is even more important to appreciate Spearhead Theatre and New Celts’ Production’s performance of “Some Voices” for providing the kind of realism that stills a person’s thoughts and can make them forget to applaud because they are so lost in the world onstage.
Opening inside of a mental ward makes it apparent to the audience that this play is prepared to discuss any and all elephants in the room. The first contact audiences have with Ives (Andy Robertson) is nothing short of heartbreaking. He might be mentally unstable by clinical standards, but he is more than aware of his dismal situation and the reality that he may never make it out. This play and its actors refuse to shy away from suffering and pain, and I admire them for that.
From the time audiences first meet the lanky and unfiltered Ray (Michael Dallas), it is hard not to appreciate his depth. His honest appraisal of his feelings and experiences makes him human. The humor he can insert into a situation with deadpan delivery adds the right amount of levity to a very dark set of storylines. He, like Ives, isn’t unintelligent despite mental illness. Schizophrenia doesn’t lessen Ray’s comprehension of the world; it allows him to view it through a different lens.
This awareness comes to the audience through Ray’s haggard brother Pete (Stefan Ward). Pete is constantly working and appears to carry the weight of a man running out of options. His loyalty to Ray is unflinching even in the most dramatic moments. In that way, he becomes the paternal figure Ray (and in their own ways, the audience) needs, whether he wants it or not. Pete’s persistence and uncompromising love for Ray is one of the most powerful things on the stage.
For as much as this emotional strength exists, the brute strength with which Dave (Lewis McCutchen) commands the stage is nothing if not upsetting. From the audience’s perspective, he seems to be the mentally unstable one in some ways, apparently needing control of Laura (Rachel White) who needs nothing more than to sever all ties with him. Dave exudes force and power, but does so in a way that all his worth hinges on control of the woman carrying his child.
Watching the couple’s interactions punctuated by Laura’s conversations with Ray reveal just how warped the situation is. Nothing kept me so tense as worrying Laura’s baby would be slaughtered still inside of its mother. Despite this fear, Laura’s curious dichotomy of strengths and weaknesses made her complex and captivating, nothing short of relatable for the self-aware person in the audience realizing that he or she makes choices that are both logical and self-destructive.
By the time the show came to an end, I definitely found myself wondering how much time had passed in the world of the play. The more I mused on it, the more I realized it could easily be read as a matter of days or of weeks. Performed with only three tables, a cart and handheld props, the world of the play very much hinges on audience perspective.
Regardless, for the time and space the performers had, they created a world that is all too real for everybody in some way or another.