Jewish Journal

‘Bonkers’ Finds Humor in Hell

by Naomi Pfefferman

Posted on Jun. 24, 2004 at 8:00 pm

"I personally detest theater as therapy," Julianne Grossman said. "I don't want to see someone 'catharsis-izing' all over me in an attempt to heal themselves."

Her mordantly funny monologue, "From Bonkers to Botox," chronicles her suicidal depression of 2002. But it is not, she repeats, not cathartic to recount how she swallowed rat poison, yanked her blowdryer into the tub and nearly leapt from the highest hotel in Burbank.

Since this self-described "nice Jewish girl from the Valley" was already healed when she wrote the play, reliving her angst onstage is painful.

And even if the theater lately has been overrun with anguished-but-funny monologues, Grossman,35, isn't trying to ride the trend.

"I just want to help people suffering through depression see that they, too, can heal," she said.

The statistics she added are grim: About 300,000 Americans try to kill themselves yearly; one in 10 succeed while others are left blind from drinking things like Drano.

Grossman's "great depression" began two years ago: she was a Drama-Logue-winning actress, a successful voiceover artist and a longtime member of Shomeri Torah's choir. But she'd also battled what she calls "the depressies," minor funks that escalated after LASIK surgery left her in chronic pain and she suffered other problems in early 2002. When medications -- particularly the sleeping pill Ambien -- rendered her practically catatonic, Grossman prowled the supermarket for poison ("The pest control aisle was filled with options," she says in the play).

"Bonkers" also describes how she screamed in the ambulance, "I can't go to St. Joseph's; I'm a Jew."

Of why the piece is comic, Grossman's co-producer, Diana Stein, said, "Hilarious things really did happen. In the hospital, Julianne's dad really did say, 'Didn't you read the Ambien label? It specifically says, 'Do not take with rat poison.'"

Grossman offers another reason: "One way this subject can become palatable is through humor," she said.

Plays through July 25 at Hollywood's Stella Adler Theatre. $18-20. For tickets: call (818) 753-7788.

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