Mixed Blood Theatre
Free, first come, first served ($20 online reservations)1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
612.338.6131; through Nov. 11
A musical about bipolar disorder wouldn't seem likely to be a can't-miss Broadway hit, but Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt's Next to Normal was a sensation on the Great White Way and on tour following its opening in 2009. Seeing that production, I could sense the quality beneath, but it felt like the staging overwhelmed the small and personal story within. Mixed Blood fixes that issue with its production of the musical. The show is stripped down to a scale that befits the material: The raw emotion of a woman struggling with mental illness and the turmoil it causes in her family come clearly to life. Aditi Kapil stars as Diane, a woman whose delusions include interactions with the specter of her dead son. Drugs don't work, so she finds a new psychiatrist (Regina Marie Williams), who helps for a time, but the darkness is never far away. The play delves into the roots of Diane's issues but never offers any easy solutions. It's not a matter of disposing of the ghost of her son (Ricardo Vazquez) and then everything is right. Kapil's singing is a bit rough, but her acting is supreme, while Williams crafts a character full of confidence and sympathy. The real star of the evening, however, is Thomas W. Jones II as family patriarch Dan. Both his acting and singing are sublime, creating remarkable depth to his character.