Next to Normal- A Play & A Poem

In May I posted my review of the play Next to Normal, which we saw in November, on I thought I had also posted it here on Menupause, but in reviewing recent postings I realized I had it in draft form and never pushed the Publish icon. Then, the other day, I came across the poem I wrote to Alice Ripley, the female lead, which I thought I didn’t save, but I did.

So here are two leftovers from May’s Mental Health Month offerings. Since I posted the review on Divorce Dayz in May, only the poem is there this week, so here you get double leftovers! The double posting is also longer than my normal postings. The flowers in the poem are  from Victoria, Canada’s Butchart Gardens in between the lines to soften the words.



May was National Mental Health Month, a very important one for me, because depression seems to run in our family, so the play Next to Normal hit many chords. My husband and my son and daughter by marriage, as well as the partner of my son-by-marriage (who works at Sony Columbia, so he was able to get great seats) all loved the play, even though it was about a tough subject, manic-depression, or as it is now called, bi-polar disorder. (I prefer the original name since it is more descriptive.)

In this rock musical serious play, the main character, Diana is played by Tony award winning actress Alice Ripley. In the play, for the past 17 years, she has been treated for manic-depression, to no avail.  The story line involves only five other characters: her long-suffering husband, her angry daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, her son and her psychiatrist, aptly names Dr. Fine.

In dialogue and music, we begin to see the pain that all of them suffer from Diana’s illness. In one scene, the voices off stage sing: Zoloft and Paxil and Buspar and Xanax…Depokote, Klonopin, Ambien, Prozac….Ativan calms when I see the bills—These are a few of my favorite pills. (Parody of These are a Few of my Favorite Things.)

The play not only shows Diana’s struggle, but also the struggle of family members caught in the cycles of Diana’s illness. It is painfully poignant, and yet, at the end, somewhat reluctantly resolved for the present.  And by the end, almost all of us had tears streaming down our cheeks.

Not only did Alice Ripley receive a Tony; the play won the Pulitzer. The music is not your everyday rock, but even without the play, I like the score and downloaded it into my iTunes. I took the CDs to school last week when I substituted and two students had seen the play and also loved it, so it appeals to a wide range of ages.

I was so moved by the play that I sent the star, Alice Ripley, a poem I wrote the next day. I never heard from her, but I also never received the letter back, so I hope she received it….and I hope you get to see this prize-winning play, because it puts mental illness in a place that more of us can understand it, which is part of the battle of making mental illness clearer to those who live with someone plagued by it. My poem is below the review.

Note: To purchase a copy of the excellent CD, just click on the image below and it will take you right to the  online store.




The Three Faces of Leave
A Tribute to Alice Ripley in Next to Normal

By Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson
November 23, 2009

This sunken garden was once a huge hole that had been quarried by Mrs. Butchart’s husband. Mrs. Butchart transformed it into this!

Part I

You can leave in anger with all its pain

But don’t buy into “no pain, no gain.”

You can leave in sadness with all its tears

For the slow loss of love over many years.

You can leave in Peace, the hardest to do.

I spent eons on that; it’s finally come true.


You can rant and rage, holler & scream.

It won’t change the facts, won’t buy back the dream.

One day you’ll wake up, tired of crying,

Tired of self-pity and tired of lying.


You’ll pick up the pieces left over from grieving

And consider the option you chose for leaving.

Decide then and there to say, “Pain be gone!”

Look into your soul and then move on…


To Life on your terms, rich or poor;

Be kind to yourself, open ev’ry door.

For the world is waiting for your special gift…

That’s been locked deep inside—give the lid a lift.



Part II

I spent years in anger, in sadness & grieving.

I’ve learned there is no easy way of leaving.

Life’s far from easy & not necessarily fair.

Because love & fear* are always there.


Maybe Next to Normal is all you will get.

Grab it, hold it, have not one regret…

For Next to Normal may be what’s REAL.

And when you accept that, you can begin to feel….


Feel the pain and yes, feel the sorrow.

Know that there’s always another tomorrow

To reach inside and love yourself;

No more hiding on a dusty shelf.


Kick up your heels; brush off the dust.

Live Life in loving, forgiveness & trust.

Your waiting heart is tired of grieving;

No more need to go on leaving.


Next to Normal sounds perfect to me…

Live it! Love it! Let it be!

This fountain at Butchart Gardens was spellbinding because it changed directions and made different patterns.

* In A course in Miracles, Love & Fear are considered the only real emotions.

Posted in Ramblings | Edit | No Comments »

One thought on “Next to Normal- A Play & A Poem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Copyright ©2022 Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson. | Website by Parrish Digital.