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Career > > 1999 > Undoing Depression: Good for Otto

Undoing Depression: Good for Otto

April 17 - April 18, 1999 | Northwest Center for Mental Health
Directed by: David Rabe | Literature: David Rabe
Cast: Sam Waterston (Dr. Robert Michaels), Meryl Streep (Evangeline Ryder), Jill Clayburgh, Edward Hermann, Henry Gummer

"Good for Otto" was written by David Rabe as a fundraiser for the Northwest Center for Mental Health in collaboration with Richard O'Connor, the executive director of the Center at that time. Three performances was given on April 17-18, 1999. Since that time, the author has considered working on it to turn it into a complete dramatic work, which it is not at the moment, in spite of having many of the traits and virtues of such a work. "Good for Otto" is based on characters and incidents in Undoing Depression. The cast included Meryl Streep, Jill Clayburgh, Sam Waterston, Edward Hermann and Henry Gummer.

Playwright David Rabe, celebrated for his Tony Award winning plays “Sticks and Bones” and “Hurlyburly”, took a good 16 years to develop a new full-length play titled “Good for Otto.” Fragments of the piece (15 characters, two acts) have their origins in 1999 at a fundraiser for the Northwest Center for Family Service and Mental Health in Lakeville, Connecticut, near where Rabe lives and where he has friends among the staff. The staged reading of what became a fragment of this new play starred Meryl Streep, Sam Waterston, the late Edward Herrmann and Jill Clayburgh, the playwright’s late wife. Clayburgh died in 2010. Rabe and Clayburgh’s children include the New York actress Lily Rabe. “The center is an idyllic place in the countryside,” Rabe recalled. “Yet every horror is there.” The play is a picture of a fictionalized mental hospital — the playwright spent time observing in Lakeville and has, he says, “some fairly extensive experience” with therapy. “I ran into some techniques that fascinated me,” he said, demurring when it came to precise details. His source for the play, “such as it was,” was a book called “Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You” by the psychotherapist Richard O’Connor, a friend of the playwright. The central character in “Good for Otto,” one Dr. Michaels, is loosely based on O’Connor. 16 years after this reading, Rabe’s play debuted at the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park in September of 2015.



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