Imagine a nuclear attack on the U.S., after which fallout changes everyone's brain chemistry -- happiness and other emotions no longer can be produced by humans without the use of drugs.
That's the premise behind "Happy Pills," which will be performed at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 23 at MadLab Theatre, 227 N. Third St. in downtown Columbus.
Admission is $18 for the general public, $15 for students and seniors and $13 for MadLab members. Tickets are available at madlab.net.
"We've been doing the post-apocalyptic thing" for a couple of years, said Stephen Woosley, an ensemble member with MadLab, "but this takes a difference approach to it. The 'Happy Pills' (plot), people losing their emotions, is a different thing, a different hook."
The play was written by Alyssa Cokinis, who is based in Chicago.
Fern, an 18-year-old woman, is one of the characters.
The play shuffles between Fern's present, in which she lives in a place called the Integrated Borders Union one year after the fallout, and her past, or what happened to her on the road a few months after the fallout.
Audrey Marie Craddick, who plays Fern, said the woman is dealing with running away from home and returning her life. She is trying to feel love for her boyfriend but has feelings for Kerouac, a woman she met in the forest.
"Happy Pills" shows a modern sensitivity to the LGBT community while offering commentary on mental illness, Craddick said.
"It's sort of a view on mental illness and how society views mental illness, and I think it does justice on what it stands for," she said.
Craddick said the play is complex, but the storyline is intriguing and enjoyable.
"When you read the script, the author did such an amazing job spelling it out for you in a way that's still interesting," she said. "It takes a while to understand the underlying meaning of everything but the story itself isn't confusing in the sense of you don't know what's happening."