Maladjusted, the new production by Theatre for Life (aka Headlines Theatre) is a thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, funny, sad and mind-broadening journey inside the hierarchical and mechanical mental health system—a system that leaves little time or money to invest in the people it is trying to serve.
The evening begins with a short play in which we see a caseworker trying to find shelter for a homeless man only to be thwarted by the rules and regulations of the recovery house where she sends him, and a psychiatrist trying to help a distressed teenager by scribbing on his prescription pad while all her mother can do is wring her hands and have a drink.
The play ends with no resolutions to anyone's problems but then the director, David Diamond, explains that the actors will begin the play again and this time members of the audience will stop the action when they feel that they see a way to deal with the situation in a more effective way. It was difficult for the first audience volunteer, who mounted the stage and put herself in the place of the caseworker so that we could see the scene unfold on a new path, but once the ice was broken, there were plenty of volunteers with ideas about how things could go differently. Sometimes these changes helped the situation and sometimes they sent the action off on wild tangents that we could not have forseen.
We weren't there to find solutions but rather to engage in the discussion about how to change to a more "human centred" system and amidst the laughter and tears, plus some shouting and swearing, both my mind and my heart were wholly engaged in the struggles and dilemmas of the characters before me.
Maladjusted is well worth seeing—it will engage you both emotionally and intellectually. I'm hoping to go again because I want to see how things come out differently with a different audience.
Don't miss it!
At the Firehall Theatre in Vancouver until March 24:
Tuesday to Sunday, 8pm
March 17, 2pm.
Buy tickets here or just show up at the door.