An Unsparing Look at Mental Illness and Denial in “I Won’t Be in on Monday”

Lead Article, Reviews

By Danielle Crean
 
In “I Won’t Be in On Monday,” writer and performer Anne Stockton represents multiple characters by making believe that others are there with her. Her protagonist Nikki has powerful conversations with two people face to face and several others by phone, with Ms. Stockton hinting as to what the unseen person had said. But the audience may wonder whether Nikki is in fact speaking to anyone at all. Is it all a sign of schizophrenia? Is this entire performance simply Nikki speaking to herself?
 
Any play depicting an individual diagnosed with mental illness must represent the chemical imbalance as best as possible. Although it is not explicitly addressed until the last thirty minutes, we see that something isn’t quite right. Two rings had been stolen from Nikki’s workplace and as a detective interrogates her, we question whether Nikki committed the crime in full cognizance, or whether she is mentally unwell. Ms. Stockton begins her performance with composure, and confidently answers questions with ease. Nikki is quick on her feet, but eventually starts to behave erratically. It is revealed that Nikki showed up to work at 5:00 AM, she owns three cell phones, and she just purchased her and her boyfriend plane tickets to a vacation getaway, all of which implicates her in the theft.
 
Mental illness is a very difficult road, and Ms. Stockton has a way of expressing Nikki’s fear and shame of letting people know the real her. Her mouth is almost always in a smirk, and sometimes a full grin. Nikki is constantly putting on a façade, changing the subject, and hiding who she really is, sometimes even from herself. Ms. Stockton’s performance as a woman coming apart at the seams is filled with passion and relatable energy.
 
You begin to feel bad for Nikki, even when it may be obvious that she is abusing prescription medications and failing to admit to her problems. Nikki is unable to accept many aspects of her life, so it’s no wonder that she can’t come to terms with her own internal demons. When it becomes apparent that her boyfriend, of whom she speaks highly, has no intention of committing to her or their plans, Nikki makes continuous excuses for him, much as she does for herself and her own actions.
 
The story takes an even more emotional turn when Nikki speaks to her mother, whom she calls in a panic to show the detective that she’ll always have a place to stay. Ms. Stockton carries the emotional deliverance of two people. Nikki is either having a difficult conversation with her mother, who has clearly run out of options to help her sick daughter, or is sitting there arguing with herself, clearly conflicted about her own reality. We never see her snap back into reality, which drives the question of whether this is all being acted out in her mind. Ms. Stockton’s performance makes us contemplate the big picture of who is truly present for these conversations. We never receive closure for Nikki at the very end; she remains without a job, without a home, and without any acceptance of her own illness.

 
I Won’t Be In On Monday
Written and Performed by Anne Stockton
Directed by Austin Pendleton
September 25th and November 3rd at 7:30 PM
Photo credit: courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Theater Festival
Theater Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
 
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DANIELLE CREAN is an aspiring writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in Communication Arts and Journalism. During her college career she was a writer and editor-in-chief for the Odyssey Online. She is also currently writing a novel based on her own personal experiences with mental health.

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