‘Night, Mother: A deeper look into mental health

Payton Willis

“‘Night, Mother” is an original play written by Marsha Norman that deals with mental health and family relationships. The main characters are Jessie and her mother Thelma, two women at different stages of adulthood surrounded by economic hardship. 

Jessie announces early into the show that she will be ending her life later that night. “‘Night, Mother” allows viewers to step inside Jessie’s head and see what life experiences led her to this fatal decision and how her relationships with family members have changed and evolved. 

Senior Amy Nicholson directs the upcoming production of “‘Night, Mother” and said the audience should be aware that this play deals with topics such as suicide, depression and chronic illness. 

“I want people to walk away realizing that this is not only the story of a tragedy and pain but also a story about a relationship and how a mother and daughter grapple with difficult topics,” Nicholson said. “The audience likely will not walk away feeling uplifted and hopeful about life, but they should walk away understanding the brutal reality of how mental illness can manifest itself, the good, the bad and the ugly.” 

The show may be difficult to see, but it holds a very real message about how important mental health is and how quickly it can manifest into something horrible. 

Taking action and implementing more preventative measures, like asking someone how their day is or giving a shoulder to cry on, can greatly offer assistance to those who struggle. Students should come to see this show to really understand mental health and to get a glimpse into how fast poor mental health can destroy a life.

The New York Times produced quite a few articles dedicated to the review of this play and writer Leah Frank said, “This is an emotionally brutal play filled with both love and tears, and it is receiving an excellent production.” In Frank’s review, she stresses how important the overall message is for viewers and how the show paints Jessie’s final hours as a new beginning for her mother Thelma.

Another New York Times writer, Frank Rich, gave his take on the show in his article. He explained why he felt that the show had a hopeful meaning at the end: “There can be hope if there is understanding, and it is Marsha Norman’s profound achievement that she brings both understanding and dignity to forgotten and tragic American lives.” 

Seeing the change in the relationship between Thelma and Jessie over the span of the show allows the audience to see the growth in Thelma’s character. She goes from having a constant source of support to having to navigate life on her own.

Students should view this play if they want a completely new outlook on mental health and how important it is to provide support to struggling individuals. Putting on this show will allow the audience to truly step inside a mind that is greatly affected by mental health and also see how family dynamics and perspectives can be changed as a result.

The play will be held at the Black Box Theatre on March 3, 4 and 5 at 7:30 pm and March 6 at 1:30pm.