You Are Worth More Than Mere Survival: “The Manic Monologues”

“The Manic Monologues” cast; Photography: Nikolai Alexander, FPoint Productions

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Part of the Turning the Tide Project
By Zachary Burton and Elisa Hofmeister
Directed by Brad Reinking
Turning the Tide Director: Kara Crumrine
Mental health production consultant: Sara Burd
Featuring: Ethan DePuy, Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia, Liza Giangrande, Katie Kendrick, Mal Malme, Cidalia Santos

February 16 – 25, 2024
Arrow St Arts
2 Arrow Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Audio Described Performance:
Saturday, February 24 at 8:00 pm

ASL Interpreted Performances:
Friday, February 23 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, February 24 at 3:00 pm
Saturday, February 24 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, February 25 at 3:00 pm

Captioned Performances:
All Manic Monologues performances will feature open captioning.
Running Time: 110 minutes, no intermission, includes a community conversation

Review by Kitty Drexel

Please note: The Manic Monologues has themes of emotional violence and self-harm. The stories are true but not necessarily true for the actor performing the monologue. Attendees should consider their own needs and triggers when attending. 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —  The Manic Monologues is a play/community discussion in the tradition of The Vagina Monologues by V (formerly Eve Ensler). It is a series of monologues and one-sided dialogues about mental illness written and performed to disrupt the stigma and shame surrounding mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, autism, depression, anxiety disorders, and others. 

The performance is set on a bare stage with six chairs preset on the stage right and left. Actors enter from stage left and then sit, three on each side of the stage, facing each other. The lights come up and the performance begins. 

The Manic Monologues uses no props, fancy costumes, or heavy makeup. Even the light and sound design are straightforward. The show looks like it could be performed anywhere and by anyone. That seems to be the point. Anyone with an interest, anywhere could produce this show for any community. Its simplicity reveals the art. 

The black box studio where the play is performed in an intimate setting. The audience becomes intimately involved with the actors’ performances. There is no escaping the trauma and joy (there is some) occurring onstage. 

The actors can’t hide from us; we can’t hide from them. If the actors were any less devoted to their performances, it could have gotten deeply awkward in the studio. That it didn’t is a testament to the actors’ vulnerability and willingness to meet the audience where we were.

TMM is doing a lot of heavy lifting for a 90-minute show about mental health that speaks directly to the audience. There are moments such as the transition before and after the monologue about a mother’s depressive episode that would be aided by some levity. The audience needs it to cope with the mother’s admissions. 

Near the beginning of the performance, the cast walks in a circle in what looks like an exploration of the space. It sets up the audience’s expectations at the beginning of the show even though they only do it once. It is strange that the cast does something so specific only once. 

All performances have open captioning. Nicole Comtois, Mal Malme*; Photography: Nikolai Alexander, FPoint Productions.

Theatre likes to show us actions in threes. This could be a useful tool to break up the tension between monologues. We don’t know what this action means. Performing the rotation once doesn’t show us what the rotation signifies. A confused audience is okay if they are meant to be confused. TMM isn’t that kind of show.  

The cast and crew at every level of TMM should be deeply proud of the important work they are doing on this production. It isn’t easy to tell personal stories much less tell the true stories of a harmed stranger over and over again in rehearsal for weeks. 

Your work is necessary; it is difficult; it is reaching an audience because of your efforts. Thank you. 

Following each performance, there is a community discussion mediated by a production member. A production member asks the audience if and how it identified with the production they just saw. Audience members are given space to respond. Everyone listens. 

It is not mandatory to attend the community discussion, but the discussion is part of the experience. People with mental illness walk among us. Developing empathy and compassion for humans living with mental illness is part of destigmatization. 

Moonbox partners with ME2, a classical music organization created for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them, on The Manic Monologues. Please check out ME2’s website to DONATE, volunteer, or make music. 

I identified with the characters in TMM because I live some of their stories. I sincerely hope other audience members identified with and found some comfort in it, too. If you did or do, please pass on the production information to your friends and family. 

For more information about The Manic Monologues, including performance rights, go to the website:

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