Kalopsia Uses Laughter And Music To Fight Mental Health Stigma In Black Community | Theater | Pittsburgh

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Photo: Courtesy of the New Hazlett Theater

Malcolm McGraw as Bernard “Byrd” Fuller at the New Hazlett Theater Kalopsia the musical

Wear rose-colored glasses? It’s a phrase at the heart of Kalopsia the musical, a new production at the New Hazlett Theater focused on mental health and the culture that surrounds it in the black community. Kalopsia, the illusion that things are prettier than they actually are, poses a significant problem interspersed with comedy and song, creating a multi-layered story that allows audiences to guess – and laugh – all the way through. throughout the performance.

Written by Monteze Freeland and directed by Tomé Cousin, Kalopsia, from October 7 to 17, made its workshop debut with New Hazlett in 2017, and has now turned into a beautiful musical, the theater’s first performance since the pandemic closed in 2020.

The musical tells the story of Bernard “Byrd” Fuller, played to perfection by Pittsburgh native Malcolm McGraw, whose coping mechanisms of escape and fantasies, complemented by dance numbers and “creative collaborators. “, catch up to adulthood. The story begins with a meeting with Byrd’s parents at his elementary school, where the subject of therapy is first discussed, leading to quarrels between his parents and a disagreement over his mental health treatment. His behavior continues to intensify over the years.

And then comes the fun. We are introduced to today’s Byrd, a young queen in her twenties, sassy, ​​fierce, who dances alongside her backup dancers – Excuse me, “Creative collaborators” – The Blue Byrds. Byrd dons a purple hotel uniform with a gold fanny pack, posing at the front desk of the Darius Hotel. (Although the costumes, designed by Lindsay Gorganson are modern, I loved that the colors of Byrd’s theme were purple and gold, and everything he wore throughout the performance continued to be be in that color scheme.) Byrd relaxes with his co-workers, Vanessa (captured by Ryan Jordan, whose only concern is going viral on Tiktok; absolutely nailed to Gen Z) and Gerald (appeared in a cloud by Treble Nls , who has a PhD in High Times.)

Click to enlarge Malcolm McGraw as Bernard

Photo: Courtesy of the New Hazlett Theater

Malcolm McGraw as Bernard “Byrd” Fuller and Cheryl El Walker as Glenda “Goodie” King

Enter Cousin Larry (Richard McBride), manager and owner of the Darius hotel. He finds his employees posing with their feet up and foggy, and snapping, causing a frown. He comes to give news: “It’s time to get in shape! There is a great opportunity for the hotel this weekend – Reverend Al Sharpton and his team are coming to town and he is going to stay at the hotel! They need to be on their best behavior and get in shape or ship! Tail music!

The rest of the production continues with a delightful array of antics, betrayals, and witty banter from the characters, all of whom are incredibly talented.

Charlese Dawson, who plays Hattie Mae Wilkes, a guest at the hotel where Byrd works, was a big star to me. Her voice was phenomenal. She sang a song with the equally talented and handsome Richard McBride, cousin of Hotel Darius owner Byrd Larry (and her sweetheart), and she killed that song. Yes, Mariah Carey, she has the range! (Byrd would understand this joke.)

Dominique Briggs, who plays Byrd’s mother Karen, perfectly captured a black mother with a mentally ill child. (I know this because as a black woman I experienced it and it reminded me of my own mother.)

It’s a performance you have to see for yourself. It’s a comedy, but it’s also a story about mental health. The idea of ​​seeking therapy. The admission that you, or someone you know, or your child has a problem. The stigma of having a mental illness and the fear of what people will think. This prayer heals everything on its own. This therapy can lead to psychiatry and medication.

What is the right way to treat mental health? How can we get more people to see than we all experience, and see that it’s not a weakness, and it’s completely normal?

I can say that I left feeling better about my personal situation after seeing this piece. I recommend seeing it for yourself. I think you will walk away understanding why you have to “get over it!” “

Kalopsia the musical. Continue until Sunday, October 17. $ 20-35. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, north side. newhazletttheater.org

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