Truly Dually, book and lyrics by Michael D. Ullman Ph.D. with music by Roslyn Catracchia, in collaboration with the Prime Time House, an organization that works with adults with mental illness in the communities of Litchfield County. Warner Executive Director John Bonanni noted that a musical about the challenges of homelessness and mental illness fit into the Warner's "Comfort and Joy" initiative of nonprofit entities joining together for the common good of the community. Two more performances are scheduled for Hartford's Academy of the Arts and the Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan.
The story is a compelling morality tale about homeless people and the service providers that assist them. Dr. Ullman wrote the play in 2004 based on his experiences working at the IHS Emergency Shelters in Honolulu. On-stage narrators read stage directions before each scene and the small set is augmented by projections (by the director Katherine Ray and Sharon A. Wilcox) on a screen set above the action. The wonderful musical numbers added much to the story and included "Shelter Plus Care," "Axis One," "Mister Pharmacy," and the title song that refers to comorbid condition of a person considered to be suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. The costumes by Aurora Montnero and Renee C. Purdy effectively set the scene.
Ms. Ray collected a group of actors with wildly different backgrounds and stage experience, ranging in age from a seventh grader to older adults. Ensemble members played a myriad of roles and included the very talented Zach Carter and Jeff O'Brien. Brian Nowell was charming as "Park Man" and John Mehm as the "Dually Diagnosed Man" (who is the Director of the Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology at the University of Hartford) was authentic. Bryna Kearney gave a fine performance as the "Outreach Worker." The cast members shared the role of the narrator and Musical Director TJ Thompson played the accompaniment on a keyboard disguised as a pile of trash.
I must admit that I didn't expect the show to be as uplifting and funny as it was. Mr. Carter told me that it was put together with only two weeks of rehearsal. Performers included people in recovery, one living with mental illness, mental health workers and a Broadway veteran. All were very good and some were amazing. I was really glad that I attended.