4 Minutes to Happy
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Bell
August 15, 2004
We live in a time of instant solutions to our problems. If we feel depressed, there's probably a pill to fix it; if we don’t want to talk, we can hide behind email or cell phone voicemail. When we slow down to really listen to how someone is feeling, we might just be reminded of our own vulnerabilities: can’t have that.
This is the feeling behind 4 Minutes to Happy, a one-woman play written and performed by Sarah Morton and directed by Randy Rollison. Morton boldly explores her journey with depression, how it has affected her world and her loved ones, and how she has come through it to this day. Self-testimony can be difficult to pull off, as it sometimes reeks of using theatre as therapy. However, Morton approaches her story from an honest place, allowing us to see her vulnerability. The story begins with Morton out on a date, and it is very amusing to watch her staring blankly through this enervating experience. But when her date informs her that he can recite Shakespeare backwards, something in this odd admission appeal to her; and she feels alive again for the moment.
We learn that this is a pattern for Morton, as she grapples with understanding what is wrong with her. At the doctor’s, Morton fills out a survey of her personality, hoping for an answer. She is diagnosed as clinically depressed—a general term that could apply to more specific symptoms. She portrays the nurse—a very funny stereotype of the sterile personalities in medical professions; she looks judgmentally at her patient/self and prescribes herself Zoloft. We feel real empathy for Morton: she doesn't want to take the Zoloft; she just wants to find help.
As Morton portrays other people in her life, she shows us her ample talent for physical comedy. Expressing her feeling of disconnection with the world, she holds moments for what feels like too long, but she really lets these moments go all the way through her, and we get the feeling that this is how Morton sees the world while she is on medication—a numb sense. It is intriguing to watch. Morton’s statement that she is “frustrated with not being able to perfectly verbalize being sad” is particularly touching, and is the theme of her show.
4 Minutes to Happy is a revealing look of one person’s bravery to overcome depression without the crutch of medication. Morton shows us that we can really look at ourselves without hating what we see, and learn to love what is there.