Sleeping Beauty Wakes… And Falls in Love with Man with Narcolepsy!
|Production Photo by T. Charles Erickson|
I am so excited this musical features a main character with narcolepsy and cataplexy. It seems that the character’s cataplexy is featured prominently – with feelings of happiness leaving the Orderly collapsing to the ground – something I can relate to (see A Dreamy Valentine’s Day Post).
The New York Times writes:
“Instead of a polished prince, her savior is a hospital orderly, Mike (Bryce Ryness), with some challenging afflictions of his own, namely a neuropathological combo plate of narcolepsy and cataplexy that has him tumbling to the floor unconscious whenever he feels a surge of happiness.”
(See: “A Fairy Tale, Updated Without Ambien” by Charles Isherwood, NY Times, May 23, 2011.)
Another reporter describes:
“Aiding the doctor is an orderly who suffers from a form of narcolepsy himself and, when experiencing strong emotions, will abruptly drop to the floor, paralyzed, often to comic effect.” (See: “‘Sleeping Beauty Wakes’ shines with spectacular music” by C. W. Wood, Asbury Park Press, May 17, 2011.)
I have not seen the musical yet so only know third-hand information from reviewers. However, as I write this, I am struggling to reconcile my personal experience of cataplexy with the more light-hearted fairy-tale version described by the reviewers of “Sleeping Beauty Wakes.” For those in the Princeton, NJ area who are able to attend, let me know what you think!
Also, I would love to get the perspective of the actor, Bryce Ryness, playing the character with narcolepsy. I wonder how he prepared for the role and if his understanding of narcolepsy has shifted through this experience.
I do fear that a possible comical portrayal of cataplexy may perpetuate the stereotype of narcolepsy as a point of humor rather than a serious illness. I guess it’s important to remember: a fairytale may be set in modern times, but that doesn’t mean it’s reality. At the end of the day, fairytales are still just fairytales. And in this one, the person with narcolepsy turns out to be Prince Charming and wins over Sleeping Beauty. Now that’s something I can applaud!
For more about the production: visit “Sleeping Beauty Wakes” Official Website.
For more about narcolepsy: visit Stanford’s Center for Narcolepsy Website.
Nice post. I appreciate the debunking and also the explanations of what's actually happening when someone is experiencing catapelxy.
Collapsing generally has, strangely, often been attached to being a humorous moment (eg fainting, the vulcan death grip, etc.), and as a symptom of narcolpsy it has been drawn on for comic relief, which is odd and troubling. I guess this play captures that stereotype.
I think your conclusion though is well balanced: fairytales are still just fairytales. While they may propagate certain stereotype, it is just a play and can be enjoyed for what it is.
Interesting concept for a musical…but troubling that it may in fact reinforce incorrect perceptions about narcolepsy. Will you report back to your readers if you are able to connect with any of the actors? Or maybe you could contact the writer(s)? It would be interesting to know if any of them have personal connections to people with sleep disorders.
I would like to see the play with you and write a review together we can submit to the newspapers and if necessary Pickett the show 's portrayal of narcolepsy as something funny as they did in a Mad Mad world with Mr. Bean.
Very interesting to hear your view on it. I appreciate that your opinion is nuanced and not solely a condemnation of what sounds like a pretty stereotypical portrayal of Narcolepsy.
Hi, new follower! Someone linked to your blog in a FB support group I'm in (I have narcolepsy too).
I think Bentley is right, that collapsing or falling down is often used as comic relief. It's a shame that it sounds like they're using cataplexy in this way when they could be educating people about how serious it is. I'll be interested to read your thoughts on the play if you see it.