No one can accuse Marianne Pillsbury of not being self-aware. At the beginning of Depression: The Musical, which she wrote and stars in, she admits, “Writing about depression is, well, depressing.” Watching this musical about it, however, is not; Pillsbury brightens her psychological chronicle with a healthy dose of peppy, retro-flavored pop-rock tunes. Pillsbury carries the show, and most of its high notes, without losing her breath. Such personal material—including mother issues and bad breakups—can be self-indulgent, and at times it feels like Pillsbury is using the audience as her therapist. But she mostly sidesteps that risk by adding a girl-group–style Greek chorus, played with verve by Vanessa Theus, Hayley Bridgewater and Hillary Maloney. They skip and dance their way through Pillsbury’s troubled psyche, helpfully pointing out that “this will not end well but it’ll make a great song.” That’s not oversell: The tunes are clever and introspective without falling into self-pity. (A high-energy number called “Medicated” is a standout; one doesn’t often hear lyrics about nausea, dry mouth and diarrhea.) Depression: The Musical may not be a substitute for actual treatment—for one thing, it rushes through Pillsbury’s emergence from her crisis—but its medicine goes down easy.—Diep Tran
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