Review: “Breaking Through”

I’ve done several shows with Sarasvati Productions and have seen many more. I love the diversity of voices expressed in this company and that every piece challenges you to think, planting a seed about the subject matter. I never know how entertaining or educational the piece will be with any theatre until it’s finished. Going into this, I wonder if the title means to break through stereotypes about mental illness, about an individual breaking through to come out onto the other side of “sanity”, for their surrounding circle of friends and family to break through and communicate with the individual? 

Breaking Through is an hour and a half long play about a diverse group of people struggling with their mental health, finding their way to surviving every single day as they do so. Not focusing on a particular illness but commenting on how mental illness itself is being perceived. The show could’ve focused on schizophrenia, on gender dysphasia, on body issues, but they all suffer the same misconceptions and even bigotry from those dealing with it or those dismissive of it. It’s also about the people in their lives struggling along with them and the stress they go through supporting the people they love. Performed by several local actors doubling up with multiple characters, the performances were loosely based on true stories as told by people going through their own mental health issues. 

The thing I liked about the show was that I could see some familiar people in my life displayed upon the stage. I also saw the struggles their support systems went through. Most people imagine what a schizophrenic person is like based on TV and movies, but seeing Harry Nelken‘s  lovable portrayal made you to want to get to know him. Elena Anciro‘s character made us sympathize with her; Dorothy Carroll‘s character made us wish we could fix her problems with a pat answer, yet knowing it goes far deeper than that; Richie Diggs‘s character or rather characters were all personable, as patients and as sympathetic caregivers; Marsha Knight‘s characters were also struggling with their own problems while supporting the people they loved, which is a hard task; Spenser Payne‘s reality show character was a more preferred version of the Kardashians and more relatable; and Josh Ranville‘s character challenged everyone’s perception of what’s crazy versus what drives a person crazy while dealing with your mental health: who are the contributors of our mental illness and how do we struggle with it on a daily basis?

You’ll leave the theatre questioning not only your own mental health but thinking about all those other people from your past you didn’t understand, the ones who lashed out at you because you weren’t sensitive enough, that one person who offered compassion clumsily, that other person who thanked you for the advice so you’d leave them alone with their struggles or that one person who thanked you for making their day. 

The show runs from May 23 to 28, 2017 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (at the University of Winnipeg). 

I’m also looking forward to more plays written by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore in the near future! 

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