ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
Get Out Alive
at The Den Theater
By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann
One in five adults experiences mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But it’s one in a million who can take their extremely personal experiences with depression and turn it into a kick-ass musical.
Which is exactly what singer-songwriter-activist NIkki Lynette has done with her autobiographical show “Get Out Alive” currently playing at The Den. Lynette speaks openly about her strained relationship with her mother; they adored each other, but Mom was so worried about her daughter following in her footsteps of bad choices that she smacks Lynette during an argument about boys…which, devastatingly, sets the precedent that people we love can hurt us. And leads Lynette down the very path her mother was trying to persuade her to avoid.
Lynette shares and sings of trauma and loss. Of losing her beloved mother to cancer. Of not showering for a week, leading her best friend to tell her,”You smell how you feel.” Of being in the psych ward after a suicide attempt. She says she met others in the hospital who felt as alone as she did, so she promised to tell their story.
The show includes video interviews with people talking about their mental health struggles. I really liked these segments because they were raw and honest, but also easy to follow. Some of the songs, while exhibiting Lynette’s powerful voice, were difficult to understand the lyrics. That was disappointing when her message is so important. Although, she did have a very funny song where Lynette relays her family suspects she is trying to steal her deceased mother’s fur coats. “Did I mention I’ve been a vegan for twenty years?” Which segues into the song,”Vegans Don’t Wear Fur!”
The show’s set is designed like a runway at a fashion show. Anna Wooden’s costume design is goth and hip. The giant “paper doll” gowns were especially inspired.
Two backup dancers accompany Lynette, and they are fantastic. Jacinda Ratcliffe as Echo #1 and Keeley Morris as Echo #2 are wonderful additions to the show. Their dancing was incredible. (Their energy made me feel 100 years old.)
“Get Out Alive” has perfect timing with the introduction of a new national suicide hotline number, 988, being introduced. It’s 24/7 and an excellent resource if the caller is concerned for a friend or family member as well. It’s time as a society that we talk about mental illness which used to be shrouded in secrecy and shame.
There is a giant tarp in the lobby of the theater where audience members can write what they do to stay happy, healthy, and alive. Someone had written to “stay away from negative people.” Mine was: “lots of theater & music!”
A floral display in the theater resembles the shrines that are hurriedly thrown together after a disaster or yet another tragic shooting. It symbolizes that Nikki Lynette could have needed a funeral, but she had the courage and resolve to live.
Catherine Hellmann teaches at a therapeutic day school with teens who struggle with mental illness. Being a kid these days is hard enough. She urges everyone to be kind and take their meds.