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Theatre / Code 21

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Code 21 is a play written by Russell Schneider, a local actor in the Twin Cities. The full version takes place in the adolescent psych ward wherein four young patients are staying. The play looks at the current system of psychiatry with a critical eye. Though the psychiatrists and counselors want to help the patients, the play questions whether or not the current system is really capable of doing it. The play currently exists in two versions: a full version and an abridged version with fewer characters created for the 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The original performance of the full version can be found here.


Code 21 provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Rebecca has these. Sara's mother is also emotionally abusive.
  • Adults Are Useless: If you're lucky. If not, they kill your pets.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Jesse, Sara's big brother, becomes this somewhat accidentally after his suicide attempt.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Jesse to Sara.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Many of the characters get relatively hopeful endings. Jacob and Alexander have parents who want to help and will probably be okay, Sara has Jesse, and Rebecca has come clean about her past. She ends up lying to get out of the hospital and it is unclear whether her dad will get caught and she will get the help she needs or not.
  • Brutal Honesty: Rebecca's speech to Song in the abridged version shortly before the code.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The code 21 that happens halfway through the play was inserted with this very trope in mind.
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  • Code Emergency: The code 21 which is the actual code name used in hospitals to indicate that a patient has become unruly and needs to be sedated.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Disturbingly averted. In the full version, Dr. Song explains to Cassandra that he/she (depending on the version) cannot become personally involved in the lives of each patient or else he/she would become incapable of doing his/her job.
  • Cross-Cast Role: In the first staging of Code 21, Jacob and Alexander were portrayed by female actors because no male actors were available. Dr. Theodore Song became Dr. Teresa Song. Word of God says that Dr. Song's gender is irrelevant.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Rebecca has one of these.
  • Dawson Casting: Averted in the abridged production where a genuine 16-year-old was cast as Sara. Played straight in the original production where college students played the teenage patients.
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  • Dr. Jerk: Dr. Song could be considered this. Rebecca and Sara think so anyway.
  • Emo Teen: De-constructed in a speech from Sara to Rebecca.
  • Evil Matriarch: Both Sara and Rebecca's mothers are good examples.
  • Friendly Enemy: Rebecca to Sara.
  • The Fundamentalist: Rebecca's mother.
  • Hearing Voices: Jacob.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: Cassandra in the full version, possibly Alexander as well.
  • Les Yay: Word of God confirmed that the feelings between Rebecca and Sara and between Dr. Song (who was originally a female) and Cassandra were intentionally made ambiguous because the characters were not supposed to have clearly defined sexual orientations.
  • Love Redeems: Sara and Rebecca debate this concept. Losing hope that this is true causes Rebecca to reveal her secrets.
  • No Medication for Me: Sara and Rebecca both try to fight Dr. Song's insistence that they take medication. Sara, at least, is forced to take it in order to be let out. After Rebecca explains what happens to people she's met when they go on meds it becomes a Justified Trope.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Rebecca, only she's more like a nosy roommate.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In Sara's story, an angel helps the boy she loves pull off a successful school shooting.
  • Parental Favoritism: Sara's main emotional issue is that her mother favors her brother over her.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Played straight with Sara's classmates. Challenged when Sara and Rebecca both explain why they are the way they are.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. They just aren't very good.
  • The Unfavorite: Sara.


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