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“We Are Not Alone” looks at psychiatric institutions in Italy and there approach to it’s patients. Dario D’Ambrosi was a former soccer player in Italy, and after his career he began looking at many people he knew who were institutionalized for mental illness. After seeing so many hopeless, homeless individuals, it sparked him to write the play “We Are Not Alone”. It premiered at La MAMA in 1980 and had lines around the corner, people waiting in long lines to see a masterpiece on stage, the momentum for the show picked up when notable artists and performers like Andy Warhol were seen at the show. D’Ambrosi went on to write 16 plays, several books over his career and has been out front in the quest to help people with mental help, Italy is the first country to deal with mental health from the patients standpoint, not the sane persons views on how they should act.
The play starts with a video that appears to be Bellevue Hospital, a Warholian piece almost that has a patient released from the hospital. The patient has no where to go; has only a bird in a cage, gets on a bus that leads him to a restaurant where he is asked to leave. The patient has on white facial makeup to signify he does not exist; people avoid him on the street and look at him like he is a pariah. The film ends with him going to LA MAMA. The film was brilliantly done in that it was a film of it’s time, now dated but no matter, it resonates today like it did in 1980, mental health and homelessness are a problem everywhere, we see it on the streets of New York everyday.
D’Ambrosi begins the play by coming in through the back of the stage, he banters with the audience throughout the performance, he flirts with the women, jibs a sleepy audience member and his spirits goes from frenetic to happy, to sad and angry. He tells the audience that he cannot get the voices out of his head, that they have been there since he was little. You never know what D’Ambrosi will do next and it keeps you on edge the entire performance, an hour seems like an eternity at the Cherry Lane Theater, and yet, the show flies by in the same matter. We see his life as an adult in the psychiatric hospital, he loves his friend Massimo who was given a lobotomy because of bad behavior in the ward. D’Ambrosi is sad because his friend is not the same since, he becomes angry because he has no one any longer and his anger is met with the same fate as Mossimo. D’Ambrosi brings out the disdain that the doctor has for these people at the end of the play, the doctor could care less for his patients, that it is a job for him and he has no feelings what so ever for his patients, nor does he want to learn anything about them.
With all the books and shows Dario D’Ambrosi ‘s passion lies with this piece. He tells a heartfelt story about leaving the institution and having no family or friends, we feel his pain. He continually asks the audience to look in the eyes of other people; it is difficult to look in the eyes of the people. On the inside he has a lot of friends; but feels alone in this life, he complains about the doctors not listening and gives many thought provoking ideas on how to better solve this problem. In the end, the doctor gives him two faces; one signifies his own natural face, the second is a mask behind his head; his two personalities, one happy, one violent; the voices again. This was a masterful piece of writing and direction here at this point in the play, followed by his breakdown and the end result of him being turned virtually into incapacitation.
The play is a little under an hour but it seems like a minute; it seems like eternity. D’Ambrosi takes us on a roller coaster of emotions, leaves us on the edge of our seats. The fact that he is constantly interacting with the audience, we never know what he is going to do next. We never know if he will get violent with us, he kids many audience members and is very quick witted, he puts us at ease with his kind face, but that does not last long when the voices come back, it makes the audience tense up again and we are never able to relax.