Following an academic year filled with Zoom classes, virtual social events and intense COVID restrictions, the Class of 2024 and the Class of 2025 have gotten a taste of their first relatively-normal collegiate year –– an experience that has posed some unexpected challenges.
There are many things to love about next to normal, especially the production that took place at Risley last Thursday through Saturday. The play follows the Goodman family, whose matriarch, Diana, has been living with bipolar disorder for 16 years following the death of her infant son. Each member of the family experiences dramatic ups and downs, including Diana’s husband, Dan, who wonders if he’s crazy for holding onto hope, and Natalie, who is keenly aware of her mother’s obsession with her actual firstborn child. The contemporary rock soundtrack (played live by a very talented pit of student musicians split between Cornell and Ithaca College) was dynamic, diverse and moving, and in conjunction with the staging, minimalist set and lighting, next to normal at Risley was a fantastic production. The first thing I noticed about next to normal was the overwhelming presence of students who don’t go to Cornell.