"We can talk about anything you like, Dr. Gutera says sternly yet with warmth. "Journey to The Day chronicles a doctor's foray into weekly group therapy with six motley mental patients. And when the crazies choose the topic of discussion, the results perplex as much as they intrigue.

With such demanding subject matter, Springfield High School presented Roger O. Hirson's play with a masterful understanding of the source material. With a first-time student director, Annamarie Filippone, at the helm, the group still found humanity in what at times could have be read as a incoherent scattering of lines and phrases. The show's drop-wise pace rarely held the cast back, with lead actors always adding some new subtle delivery that kept the audience guessing.

Particularly, James Cella, Rob Leinheiser, and Elizabeth Gallagher made quite compelling characters out of Dr. Gutera and patients Arthur and Katharine -- "with a K, she notes with a smile. Their well-chosen physicalities and voices added reality to characters not always seen in high school level performances. Cella's nervous but self-assuring Dr. Gutera shone most in his exchanges during the dispersed scenes outside his therapy group, where superiors questioned his methods and patients bore their hearts in one-on-ones.

Rob Leinheiser embodied patient Arthur's tragic story so well that at times, I had the urge to jump up on stage to offer a consoling hug. But then suddenly, Leinheiser had Arthur suppress his childhood torment with Arthur's zeal for the cinematic arts, and he had the whole house cracking up with his snarky-artist comments or his adept impression of Dr. Gutera for the other patients. In my four years of reviewing high school theater, I have neverseen such a fascinating and complete performance in a supporting role.

Even in such a character-driven play, Monica Fischer and Christina Neroni's costumes deserve recognition. With an appropriately dreary set and a script with generally ambiguous characterization, the varying attires of the patients -- which in a smart move, developed throughout the play -- helped define both the developing characters and the developing feel of the hospital's rec room.

Mental patients are not often thought of as enlightening. Still, Springfield High School showed us how the extremes of the human mind can be as revealing as they are disturbing.