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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 58.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Encore Studio's Lost Track puts bipolar disorder in a new light

Encore Studio's mission statement promises to "communicate, through the performing arts, a challenging and authentic message about disability and culture." In Lost Track, which addresses bipolar disorder, the company lives up to this claim in every detail.

The cast is diverse. The audience was diverse. And KelsyAnne Schoenhaar and Wendy Prosise's smart, sensitive and nuanced writing cultivates greater understanding of bipolarity and, perhaps more importantly, of society's reactions to it. Co-directors Schoenhaar and Cara E. Peterson craft a thought-provoking production, sprinkled with moments of wit, about life with this brain condition.

The story is about Danny (Leah Steele), who discovers she has bipolar disorder as a young adult. The plot traverses five of Danny's bipolar episodes, with the help of filmed scenes that give context to the events that repeatedly land her in the hospital. Danny's vulnerability is palpable.

Lost in a fugue state, she wanders into situations where she could get seriously hurt, and even when she is well, she fears that another episode might strike. Her vulnerability also colors her experiences in medical institutions, where diagnosis is often an educated guess and the side effects of medication another frightening unknown.

Danny's attacks are often characterized by her hypersensitivity to the world's problems. "I could feel the pain of Mother Earth," she says, while behind her video of despoiled landscapes suggests that this feeling is in fact not so "crazy."

The actors with Encore Studio perform with professionalism and vigor. In particular, Robin Parks walks the line between hilarious and disturbing in her portrayal of Danny's psychiatrist, the dubious Dr. Evall.

Lost Track shows the potential of theater to make a difference in the community. Encore, indeed.

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