February 8, 2012

Theater: ‘Wrong With Me’ puts a face on depression and bipolar disorder

“Wrong With Me” is a comedy — in an unorthodox sense. It’s rife with exaggerated physicality and satirical characters, yet chooses to examine the very real, dark topics of depression and bipolar disorder. How does it achieve this duality? “It’s twofold,” says writer and director Jocelyn Matsuo. “I think you can’t really see the serious moments unless you see the bright, healthy, crazy moments. Mania is like that. The cynical, depressed viewpoint is the perspective that the jokes come from, too.”

Matsuo, a master’s candidate in U of L’s theater department, spent the past year conducting interviews with people who suffer from depression and bipolar. One of her main objectives in writing the play was to let those who suffer with the disorders know they are not alone. “That was part of the reason behind the title ‘Wrong With Me,’” she says. “You’re not alone. We’re with you.”

In the process of learning more about those affected with mental illness, Matsuo acknowledged that society has come a long way in accepting disorders, but still has a ways to go. “I hope somebody out there realizes how much you use the term ‘crazy’ — ‘Oh my God, that’s so crazy!’ or ‘Oh man, that’s so insane!’ I use it really indiscriminately — at least now I think about it more when I do.”

Matsuo and members of the cast are excited to bring to light a difficult subject in hopes it will create more awareness. Actress Ebony Jordan says researching for her role led to a better understanding, one she hopes gets passed on to the audience. “One of the good things about having the university as a venue is that you get to reach students as well,” she says. “It’s something outside of their norm, rather than being required to see a Shakespeare show for class. It’s bringing this issue out in the open.”

Stage manager Jake Beamer wants people to take away an important lesson. “I want to make people listen, because depression and other forms of mental illness have a stigma attached to them,” he says. “We want to give faces to the voices.”

Matsuo is a founding member of the PoorHouse Theatre Company based in Los Angeles, her hometown. Fortunately for us, she now calls Louisville home and has found a cozy spot to live and work. “I know that it’s so heavily branded, but the ‘Possibility City’ slogan — I dig that,” she says. “I want it to be possible. In L.A., you’re lucky just to get a space. I’ve borrowed money from my parents just to rent spaces so that we could (come out even).”

After each performance of “Wrong With Me,” there will be an audience discussion with Matsuo, Gordon Strauss, director of Campus Mental Health, and Michael Kuhl from Metro Louisville Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

‘Wrong With Me’
Feb. 9-11
U of L’s Thrust Theatre
2314 S. Floyd St. • Free; 8 p.m.