Peter Frisch, of the local theater company The Producing Unit, has teamed up with actor Shay Munroe to tell a story about one woman’s struggle for mental health. This original play, called The Patient, which they co-wrote, explores the thin line between creativity and insanity. “It’s about the struggle for health that our subconscious mind is engaged in even when our conscious mind isn’t,” says Frisch, who directs the show. This world premiere of The Patient runs at Center Stage Theater for one weekend only, January 19-22.
In the play, Broadway actor Anna Hughes (Munroe) is on stage when she experiences a mental break mid-scene. She begins seeing a therapist (Brian Harwell), who discovers Anna is cycling through several dissociative identities — all characters she’s played in the past. The first is Babe (from Crimes of the Heart), whom Frisch describes as “off the cuff,” a character that brings levity to the serious subject matter. There’s also Ruth, from David Mamet’s The Woods, whom Frisch describes as “kind of airy; completely disconnected from herself.” Finally, there’s Jodine, from Frisch’s own adaptation of Studs Terkel’s American Dreams, a rabble-rouser with an aggressive personality.
Munroe plays all these parts, along with the base character, Anna. “This is probably the most challenging role I’ve played thus far in my life,” says Munroe. “The challenge of quickly adjusting myself physically and vocally — lots of times mid-scene — has only fed my love of doing this line of work.”
The Sunday-afternoon performance will be followed by a post-show discussion with local psychologists who have a background in the type of therapy featured in the show.
“This story is near and dear to my heart with its wild magical realism, poetic chaos, and its deeper truths around love, loss, death, and life,” says Munroe. “Anna’s journey throughout the play shows the cycle of all of that. With it comes both shattering grief and liberation.”
The Patient is at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo Ctr.) January 19-22. See centerstagetheater.org.