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Plays About Mental Illness, Depression, Suicide or Trauma

Plays About Mental Illness Depression Suicide Trauma
Plays About Mental Illness, Depression, Suicide or Trauma

These plays about mental illness have characters suffering from mental illness of some kind—long-term or sudden insanity, depression, psychological trauma or any other mental problem. In some cases it leads to suicide.

Plays About Mental Illness or Depression

The Man Who Had All the Luck: A Fable by Arthur Miller (3 Acts)

David is a mechanic working out of a barn. He’s planning on talking to Hester’s father, Andrew, even though he’s been putting it off for seven years. Andrew doesn’t like David and controls his daughter. David gets some advice about what to do. A rich farmer brings his tractor to David for a difficult repair. A successful fix would be a boon to his business. David is discouraged by the complexity of the job, and a confrontation with Andrew.

This play can be read in the preview of The Penguin Arthur Miller: Collected Plays. (10% in)

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (2 Acts)

Willy Loman is a 63 year old traveling salesman. He returns home early after canceling a trip to Boston. His wife, Linda, is concerned about his mental health and the strain of his job. She wants him to request a non-traveling position. Their two son’s, Biff and Happy, both in their 30s, are visiting. Willy is disappointed that they haven’t made anything of themselves, particularly Biff. Biff plans on asking a former employer for a job.

The beginning of this play can be read in the preview of Death of a Salesman: Revised Edition(44% in)

Trifles by Susan Glaspell (1 Act)

A small group has gathered at the Wright farm. John Wright was found murdered in his bed. The county attorney, Henderson, has been called to investigate and get the story. Also present is Henry Peters, the sheriff and Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. The neighbor who found the body, Lewis Hale, explains what happened. The men take the lead in the investigation. The women look over the kitchen and gather a few things to take to Mrs. Wright, who’s being held on suspicion of the murder.

This play can be read in the preview of Plays by Susan Glaspell(Go into “Paperback” preview first, then select “Kindle”, 5% in)

Ivanov by Anton Chekhov (4 Acts)

Ivanov and Anna have been married five years. She renounced her Jewish heritage and gave up her money for him. Ivanov is depressed and heavily in debt. Anna has tuberculosis and needs to go to the Crimea, but there isn’t enough money. A young woman, Sasha, is infatuated with Ivanov.

The first act can be read in the preview of Anton Chekhov’s Plays(6% in)

Plays About Mental Illness, Depression, Suicide or Trauma, Cont’d

Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams (1 Act)

Heather, a fifth-grade teacher, sits at her desk grading papers. The classroom is empty. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Corryn, a mother who has a parent/teacher conference. Heather directs her to the office to find the right room. Corryn comes back, saying this is the room. Heather doesn’t have anything scheduled. Corryn says it’s about her son, Gidion. Heather is shocked; she thought the appointment was off, even though it wasn’t actually canceled.

Some of this play can be read in the preview of Plays by Women from the Contemporary American Theatre Festival. (30% in)

Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan

When the narrator was seven, his mom was taken to the hospital after a suicide attempt. He started making a list for her of everything that makes life worthwhile. He relates some of the events of this trying time.

‘Night, Mother by Marsha Norman (1 Act)

Jessie Cates takes out her father’s gun and starts cleaning it. She tells her mother that she is going to kill herself. Her mother tries to change her mind. They talk about their history and Jessie reveals why she feels hopeless.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (11 Scenes)

Stanley and Stella Kowalski live in a low-end district of New Orleans. They are visited by Stella’s sister Blanche, who has more genteel tastes. She is a widow, and has lost the family property, Belle Reve. She and Stanley clash. Stanley decides to look into Blanche’s past.

Ile by Eugene O’Neill (1 Act)

A whaling ship has been stuck in frozen ice for a year. The food supply is running out and the crew’s contracts are almost up. The ice to the south is breaking up; if they leave immediately they can make it to a port. The crew is talking about a mutiny if the captain doesn’t order the ship to return to land. The captain’s wife has also come on the voyage. Her mood deteriorated as she experienced the reality of life at sea.

Plays About Mental Illness, Depression, Suicide or Trauma, Cont’d

Proof by David Auburn (2 Acts)

Catherine is alone on her birthday, and unmotivated in life. Her father, Robert, did some brilliant mathematical work in his twenties but later developed a mental illness. Hal is a former student of Robert’s who is now going through his notebooks.

Right You Are, If You Think You Are by Luigi Pirandello (3 Acts)

The Agazzi family are discussing a social affront they suffered from a newcomer to the neighborhood, Signora Frola, who wouldn’t see them when they called on her. On a second visit, they were again rebuffed by her son-in-law, Ponza. They’re curious about his wife, who stays inside. Others arrive and add to the speculation. They then get a visit from Signora Frola herself, who explains her behavior. Soon after, Ponza visits and gives a different explanation of what is going on. The each claim the other is living a delusion.

The Family Reunion by T. S. Eliot (2 Parts)

Amy, a widow, is in her drawing room with her three sisters and two of their husbands. Amy’s son Harry is returning after being estranged for eight years. Harry’s wife died about a year ago when she was swept off a ship. When Harry arrives he expresses some opinions that concern his family, including a revelation about his wife’s death. His mental state is questionable. Amy hopes that Harry will continue the family estate.

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman (3 Acts)

The dictatorship has ended and a democratic government now rules. A married couple, Paulina and Gerardo, are living at their beach house. Late one night, Gerardo’s car gets a flat and he gets a ride home from a passing motorist, Miranda. He returns later to talk. Paulina thinks she recognizes Miranda from the old regime.

I’ll keep adding plays about mental illness and depression as I find more.

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