The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the so-called Bible of Psychiatry. In this post-apocalyptic world, all books have been destroyed, but inhabitants of the world have managed to assemble from the fragments the complete first and second editions of the DSM (books originally published in the 1950s-1960s). In this world, the two volumes of the Deus M, as they call it, are holy texts, where the more diagnoses you have (the madder you are), the higher your caste. Young people are IQ (Insanity Quotient) tested to determine their worth, and if they turn up neurotic, schizoid, or even gay – anything listed in the DSM II – they can ascend to a higher caste.
The Main Characters
The musical follows four groups of characters, as they make their way through this world where madness is celebrated:
The Young Savant
Young Johnny Cragsman is IQ (Insanity Quotient) tested and isn’t mad at all (he’s a “normie”). His mother, Mrs. Cragsman, determined to get her son a better life, works with the crooked Dr. Mountebank to dose her son with psychotics. The drugs work a little too well, and Johnny’s madness threatens to rival that of Baboo, the craziest man alive, who travels the world with his hype man, the Barker, in a spectacular and lucrative show.
The Hopeful Couple
Henry has too low an IQ (Insanity Quotient) for Mabel to date him. Knowing that the DSM-II lists homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder, Henry decides to go to gay conversion therapy to become gay, so that his IQ will go up. But when he’s retested, his IQ far outstrips Mabel’s, granting him access to Menta, the elite society for the most insane.
The True Believer
Dr. Smith, a Psychiapriest, works tirelessly to assemble the third edition of the Deus M, only to find his path to sharing the completed volume blocked by the High Inquisitor. This leaves him questioning everything he believed to be true.
The Nightclub Singer
Cassandra, a singer in a nightclub for normies, lost her son when she tried to dose him to improve his IQ (Insanity Quotient). She makes it her mission to prevent other families from making the same mistake, if only someone would believe her.
The curtain rises on a Barker announcing the entrance of Baboo, the craziest person in the world, in his latest sold-out performance. (THE GREAT BABOO) Meanwhile, a tour leader takes some children, including Earnest and Henriette, on a tour of the Repository, as Psychiapriests around them chant while working. (DEUS NEUROTICA) There, the children meet Dr. Smith, a high ranking psychiapriest in charge of reassembling the lost texts of the third edition of the DSM from the fragments of pages left from the Before Time. Elsewhere, a young boy, Johnny Cragsman, anxiously waits with his OCD mother for his Insanity Quotient, or IQ, testing to begin.
Back at the performance venue, Baboo’s show has ended. Outside, two of his fans, Henry and Mabel, meet and feel an immediate connection. (YOU WALK IN) Despite their initial interest, Mabel rejects Henry when she discovers that Henry has a lower IQ than she does, as she’s already insecure about her own score. Still hopeful, Henry gives her his phone number just in case. (YOU WALK IN, reprise) We return to Dr. Rorschach’s office, where Johnny is being IQ tested. (DEUS NEUROTICA, reprise) Dr. Rorschach concludes that Johnny has a low IQ, which devastates his mother, who refuses to believe her son is a normie. Mabel called Henry, but hung up before he answered. Encouraged by this, he decides that, in order to be with her, he needs to raise his IQ. Since homosexuality is a mental condition in the DSM II, he tells her that he started conversion therapy to become gay. Once he’s gay, he can get retested and, higher IQ in hand, they can be together without Mabel feeling the shame of dating below her caste. (I COULD BE GAY)
Dr. Smith is working late into the night at the repository, feeling he’s closer than ever to finishing the assembly of the DSM III from the fragments from the Before Time. Elsewhere, Johnny’s mother, Mrs. Cragsman, goes into a bar for normies and bribes the bartender for the name of Dr. Mountebank, a corrupt psychiapriest who prescribes psychotics to help people raise their IQs. In the background, Cassandra, a singer at the bar, sings about losing her son to suicide from this very practice. (THE DAY I LOST MY SON)
Having completed his conversion therapy, Henry gets ready to be IQ tested anew. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cragsman meets with Dr. Mountebank and obtains dangerous psychotics to try to raise her son’s IQ. Back at the Normie Bar, the bartender confesses to Cassandra that she gave Mrs. Cragsman the contact info for Dr. Mountebank. Cassandra storms out to try to find and stop Mrs. Cragsman.
In the Act I finale, Henry meets up with Mabel with the great news that his IQ has sky-rocketed. Mabel is devastated that she now feels inferior to him, when this was all due to her own prompting. Mrs. Cragsman feels like she screwed up with raising her son and now she has no choice but to do something so very dangerous. Dr. Smith excitedly examines the DSM-III, now very nearly complete. Cassandra thinks of her own mistakes with her deceased son, as she tries to stop Mrs. Cragsman from making all the same ones. (FUCKED UP)
The act opens with Dr. Smith reveling in the finally complete edition of the DSM III he’s been working on for years. (LOOK AT IT) Meanwhile, Mrs. Cragsman comforts Johnny who fears he’s failed his mother as a normie; she starts him on the psychotics and sings him to sleep. (I’M RIGHT HERE) Henry’s new IQ puts him just over the line to be inducted into Menta, an organization for those of exceptionally high IQ, i.e., the most insane members of their society. (THE HALLOWED HALLS OF MENTA)
Dr. Smith presents the DSM III to the High Inquisitor, who tells him that the time isn’t right to release a new edition. (LOOK AT IT, reprise) Back at the Cragsman household, with the psychotics taking effect, Johnny begins wildly hallucinating. He’s hailed as a new genius who might rival Baboo and admirers gather in the street in droves. (JOHNNY’S VISIONS/DEUS NEUROTICA, second reprise) Back at his house, Henry excitedly tells Mabel about Menta. She wants to focus on their relationship, but he realizes there’s no place for her in his new life. (I CAN’T BE STRAIGHT) Mabel mourns what might have been. (YOU WALK IN, second reprise)
Dr. Smith goes over the head of the High Inquisitor and calls a press conference to announce the completed assembly of the DSM III. While conspiracy theorists and the like weigh in, the High Inquisitor sets to work discrediting Dr. Smith. Henry, meanwhile, returns to Menta and tries to find his place, only to realize that he just doesn’t belong in this world of fantastic lunatics.
As Mrs. Cragsman leaves Dr. Mountebank’s office with the second bottle of psychotics for Johnny, Cassandra appears and confronts her, warning that she has to stop the psychotics while she still can. Mrs. Cragsman feels trapped, since stopping the psychotics would reveal her, her son, and Dr. Mountebank as frauds. Cassandra feels powerless to stop what happened to her son from happening once again to Mrs. Cragsman’s. (THE BALL)
Henry returns to Mabel and pleads his case for a good enough life together: she would get a high IQ husband to bring home and he would get a white-picket-fence life. She dismisses him at first, but they finally agree to settle for one another. (YOU’LL DO FINE – YOU WALK IN, third reprise) Meanwhile, Mrs. Cragsman tells Dr. Mountebank that she wants to stop giving Johnny psychotics. Dr. Mountebank tries to placate her, while they leave Johnny, who’s clearly miserable, to sleep. As Johnny lies in his bed, Baboo climbs in through the window. He offers Johnny sympathy and tells him that things will never get any better. He convinces Johnny to kill himself, and gives him a pill to swallow, staying with him to the end. (I’M RIGHT HERE, reprise)
In the Act II finale, a young girl, Henriette, starts a hopeful song about the new day dawning. Dr. Mountebank holds a press conference with Mrs. Cragsman to announce the death of her son, the young savant; he blames a recent immunization. The High Inquisitor meets one last time with Dr. Smith, who’s lost his job and reputation. The High Inquisitor opens a safe to reveal all the editions of the DSM, safe and intact. Dr. Smith realizes his life’s work was a sham. Cassandra laments that she can’t stop what happened from her son from recurring with other mothers, no matter how she tries. Dr. Smith readies a noose for himself. Henry and Mabel force smiles as they plan their “happy ending,” and Mrs. Cragsman is in numb withdrawal after her son’s death. The Barker reappears. It’s the end of one of Baboo’s shows, saying that Baboo’s lit the theatre on fire. The rest of the characters all brace for the new day. (A BRIGHT NEW DAY)
The Creative Team
The Creative Team Behind MAD!
Aaron Alon, DMA
Book, Music, Lyrics, Arrangements, & Story
Russell Sarre, DMA
Music & Story