Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Beyond Therapy"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Beyond Therapy"

by Christopher Durang
Directed by Frank Annese

Produced by RoseannHogan
Set Designed by Ishah Janssen-Faith
Lighting Designed by Colin D. Riley
Costumes Designed by Rosann Hogan
Production Stage Manager Timothy Forstrum

Bruce.........................................Frank Annese
Prudence................................Olivia Derridinger
Stuart Framingham............Steve Sweeney (or) Will Becze
Charlotte Wallace...........................Tanya Anderson
Bob............................................Al Del Bene
Andrew.........................................Scott Yusah


In Christopher Durang's "Beyond Therapy" both the therapists are badly in need of therapy themselves, so no wonder their two patients have a bumpy trip on their way to a permanent relationship. None of these paper-thin characters has much contact with reality, but the most outlandish things drop from their mouths and they go to such bombastic lengths trying to make rational sense of it all. Sometimes it looks as though Durang just threw out an incongruous situation, and then elected to complicate the chaos at every possible turn.

For instance, Frank Annese (who also directed) plays Bruce --- a man who insists he's not gay but "prefers sex with either sexual preference". He meets Prudence (Olivia Derridinger) answering his personal ad not once but twice (He rewrote the ad) in the same restaurant (called "The Restaurant") where the waiter never emerges from the kitchen unless threatened with a gun. Durang may not be as absurd as Ionesco but he's funnier.

As director, Annese has seen to it that everyone listens to these absurdities with a straight face, and doesn't walk out in disgust. For instance, when Bruce insists that even after a failed marriage and three years living with Bob (Al Del Bene) he wants a loving, secure marriage and children --- with a little bit of Bob on the side, Prudence still insists she doesn't know him well enough to say yes or no. And when she shows up for Bruce's home-cooked meal to find that Bob --- lividly jealous --- isn't visiting his mother after all, they really try to sit together on the same couch and make polite conversation.

Then there are the shrinks. Hers (Steve Sweeney opening night) took her to bed after their second session and tries continually to bully her back for more. His (Tanya Anderson) can't even remember his name let alone his problems without his file, and goes through sugar-withdrawal if she can't get to a cookie fast enough.

This is all froth well beyond satire, but neatly and hilariously done. At every turn it's surprising how much more absurd everyone can make it. On the big New Neighborhood Playhouse stage Colin D. Riley's lights pick out shrinks' offices on opposite sides of The Restaurant, with Bruce's apartment on a whole second-level stage, in Isha Janssen-Faith's set. And the room is newly air-conditioned, too!

What better way is there to spend two and a half summer hours than laughing? Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"Beyond Therapy" (till 10 August)
NEW NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYHOUSE
20 Parmenter Street, BOSTON
1(617)723-4311

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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