Even though this is a serious matter, Elizabeth Swados makes you feel the levity of depression. And more, if you can handle it. In one scene in the animated HBO documentary, My Depression (The Up and Down and Up of It) based upon her 2005 book, you visit a supermarket stocked with "Fresh Doubt," "Malaise," and "Always Rotten." If you have ever had the dark cloud she describes hovering, you will surely recognize your personal binge. But that's exactly what this talented theater writer and her artistic partners --David Wachtenheim and Robert Marianetti-- had in mind. Aside from medication, talk therapy, and all the remedies needed to fight depression, Swados wants you to know, in the most charming, entertaining way, you are not alone.
"Hi, I'm Liz," says her animated surrogate in the voice of Sigourney Weaver, inviting you into her sadness. In the most joyful moments, the dark cloud casts its shadow unexpectedly, interrupting music, laughter, lunch with a friend, until the song "Suicide Mobile" (sung by Steve Buscemi) when the tangled mass starts to resemble Sylvia Plath's "bell jar," a suffocating, airless reminder of another way out, one that should never be an option, no matter the seduction of its lilting refrain. Fred Armisen, in the cartoon form of a pill bottle, raps about the science of depression: after a cocktail or two, he sings, "Let's get on with the show." However hard that seemed to her in her lifelong battle with mood disorder, as Elizabeth Swados said at last week's premiere screening at HBO, seeing that you are not alone is a step toward dispelling that gray cloud.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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