Clinical Depression (the funny kind)
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
February 29, 2008
Written and performed by Drew Wininger, Clinical Depression (the funny kind) is an autobiographical one man show that attempts to encapsulate Wininger's personal battle with depression. Told with unabashed candor and sprinkled with humor, Clinical Depression certainly won't leave you feeling down.
Beginning with a chronological slide show of idyllic childhood pictures of Wininger projected on a screen—reminiscent of Bar Mitzvah memorabilia—we are reminded that most of us associate our yesteryears with joy, that there was a time when a burdensome future didn't exist, and that someone diagnosed with depression wasn't always depressed.
We watch a second slide show that seems to encompass the darker years and side of Wininger's life—photos he may have been less inclined to share with us. Perhaps as an audience we are meant to question: if everything was so bright, what happened? Lucky for us, we don't need to ponder much in this piece, as Wininger takes the liberty to answer all of our questions, including the ones we may not have asked (but just in case we were wondering).
Instead of taking the easy route to use the stage as a pity cry or plea for help, Wininger puts on his teacher's cap and gives us a lesson or two about depression. One would think after 12 years of therapy and medication, Wininger knows a thing or two about it. For those of us who have never been to therapy, taken any meds, or known anyone with depression, Clinical Depression explains it all.
With the intimate photos and the introductory voiceover narrative behind it, Wininger's presence on stage feels comfortably familiar. He is so engaging and likeable, it's hard to imagine he has had to go through such pain. And because of this affability, we truly enjoy hearing his triumphs.
At times the piece seems to place too much emphasis on Wininger's personal journey and comes across as a little self-indulgent. Clinical Depression feels less like a play and more like a visiting lecture by someone who has "been there" and is eager to share.
With statements such as "You are not alone" and "Let's see a show of hands of anyone taking anti-depressants," Wininger takes on the persona of a standup comic who has crossed his boundaries. But when one woman from the audience fessed up and answered, it was fascinating to see how easily and comfortably she and Wininger engaged in a dialogue.
It seems unfair not to mention Joe Capozzi, the stage manager who also makes a couple appearances on stage. Though he never engages Wininger in any dialogue, Capozzi's random gesture as some kind of ward nurse confiscating a bottle of anti-depressants that Drew has pocketed adds the element of theatricality that is otherwise missing from Clinical Depression.
Though the theatrical purpose of this hour-long confession may be a bit murky, it's a comfort to know that Wininger has overcome much of his suffering and has found peace in sharing his experience. To watch someone so alive and vibrant on stage, someone who at one point came too close to death, is inspiring and uplifting. And having the privilege of seeing Clinical Depression with such a supportive audience was a truly touching and worthwhile experience.