Mental health is often considered a taboo topic, but Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of Theater and Dance’s latest production, “Good for Otto” is bringing awareness to the subject.
The play is centered around Dr. Michaels, a psychiatrist in rural Connecticut, and the patients he and his colleague treat. However, Dr. Michaels has secret struggles of his own.
The patients who come for therapy have a wide variety of mental health issues from abuse to self-harm, but elements of hope shine through. Through compelling performances, the stigma around mental health is portrayed in a realistic manner.
The round theater performance allows the audience to get a 360-degree view of the stage, highlighting certain characters and their monologues. Set designer Jason Wagaman constructed a minimalist set to draw attention to the biting dialogue.
“I wanted the audience to focus on the words being spoken because it talks about a lot of deep issues that are important in society that are finally being highlighted,” said Wagaman. “It really draws your focus to the actors.”
Director Vladimir Rovinsky’s need to include the production stems from the isolation and changes in society’s emotional and psychological well-being that were associated with the pandemic.
“I think that over the last year and a half humanity underwent a big stressor and the subject matter [of mental health] is still taboo,” said Rovinsky. “The mental health issue is growing year after year, so it’s a big elephant in the room, so important to start this conversation.”
Sophomore Parker Adams plays Franny, a troubled young girl in the foster care system who heavily struggles with self-harm which she calls “storms.”
Adams wanted to get involved with the production for how it makes mental health a more normalized and talked about topic.
“Creating awareness around mental health and making others comfortable talking about it is an issue that makes me super happy that we’ve been able to explore through this play,” said Adams. “I feel that everyone struggles with mental health at some point in their life and it’s important to show people that it’s okay to struggle and not be your best self, but there are people that can help.”
Senior Via Logan plays Dr. Michael’s mother who wreaks havoc in an attempt to inject some introspection into his life. Logan wants the audience’s takeaway to be that grief is a normal part of the human experience.
“This show touches a lot on mental health, but it touches a lot on grief not just for the people that we’ve lost, but people who are not living life fully and grieving what could have been,” said Logan. “You are not alone and there are people who are ready to accept you with open arms.”
Actor Grey Robertson who plays Dr. Michaels has similar wishes as to what he hopes the audience should take away.
“I hope it will pull back the curtain that will let [the audience] know that we are all human and that it’s okay to not feel good,” said Robertson.
“Good for Otto” runs from Oct. 7-10 and 13-17 in the Andreas Theater. Tickets are $17 for regular admission, $15 for seniors and children under 16, and $12 for MNSU students.
Header photo: Performance of the play “Good for Otto” takes place in a rural mental health center as six patients teeter breakdown and survival. (Maddie Beherns/The Reporter)