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Barlow play tackles issues of mental health

'David and Lisa' runs April 29 through May 6

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CHRIS HOLZBACH - From left, Alec Anderson plays David, Lexi Payne plays Dr. Swinford and Annie Guerrero plays Lisa in Barlow High Schools production of David and Lisa, which opens Friday, April 29.   Barlow High School Theater Director Jeff Schroeder wanted the school’s spring play this year to be about some serious topics.

“I knew I wanted to direct a dramatic piece that would challenge our students, was relevant and would captivate an audience,” he says of “David and Lisa,” which the school at 5105 302nd Ave. will present at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, and May 5-6.

The play tells the story of David Clemens, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Lisa Brandt, whose personality is split between Lisa, who can only speak in rhymes, and Muriel, who cannot speak, but only write and draw. The two young people meet in a residential treatment center, where they forge a friendship despite the challenges both face.

“This experience has brought about an awareness for students about the difficulty of going through life with such a crippling disease,” Schroeder says. “I have challenged these actors to approach the subject with respect, heart and veracity. I believe they have met the challenge, and I think (the audience) will agree.”

Adapted from the award-winning 1962 film of the same name, “David and Lisa” resembles a screenplay, “unraveling its plot through short vignettes, different locations and the passing of time,” Schroeder adds. That progression is what occupies the mind of Jenny Karn, 17, a junior who serves as the play’s stage manager. Karn has stage managed three other productions at Barlow but says “David and Lisa” moves more quickly than some plays.

“This one’s going to be a lot different because there’s so many scene changes,” she says, adding, “there’s a lot more props in this than we’ve had in recent plays.”

Karn says being a stage tech allows her to experience theater life from behind the curtain.

“I like that I can be a part of it but not in front of the crowd,” she says.

Fates entwine

Senior Alec Anderson 17, says to portray David, he’s had to not only step outside his comfort zone, he's had to leave it receding in the distance.

“David is an uncomfortable person in every situation,” Anderson says. “I think the hardest thing for me is to remember the little things he does because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

Those things include constantly cleaning his environment, rubbing his arms, fearing the touch of others and watching clocks.

“He’s constantly wanting to know what time it is,” Anderson says.

His counterpart is Lisa, portrayed by Barlow senior Annie Guerrero, 17, who says her challenge is going back and forth between her Lisa and Muriel personalities.

“She’s pretty depressed when she switches into Muriel, and then she’s pretty optimistic when she switches to Lisa,” Guerrero says, adding that there’s still a stigma attached to mental illness, and folks need to see not only its reality but the possibility for healing. Medication and therapy are important for patients, but constant compassion is the most important regimen.

“Love is the key to healing,” she says. “It may not fix everything at once ... but love and compassion and friendship help the process.”