Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Psychopathia Sexualis"

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"Psychopathia Sexualis"

by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Krista Cowan

Lighting Design by Robb Macomber
Stage Manager Judy Rudd

Ellie...................Angela Meade
Howard............Laurence Yates
Arthur............Benjamin Fichera
Dr. Block.....Michael R. Siering
Lucille.................Lisa Clements

In "Psychopathia Sexualis" John Patrick Shanley may have invented a new form --- the intellectual farce. This is a play in which the slamming doors through which characters pelt are all in their minds, though they find, inevitably, they cannot hide. It features an aggressively manipulative anti-Jungian Freudian doctor, instant analyses, surprising transferences, and like all comedies, it ends in marriage. And in this Wharf Rat Production, it gets better and better as it goes along.

Shanley sets up a reasonably happy couple (played by Angela Meade and Laurence Yates) with a few irritations showing here and there, then throws in a friend (Benjamin Fichera) who blurts out the fact that he's about to marry the gorgeous girl of his dreams (Lisa Clements), but he has the doctor from hell who won't give back his ... well, he has been in therapy for six years over a sex fetish, and he needs the ... he wants his friend to get them back.

Director Krista Cowan and the cast have concentrated on the scenes in which Michael R. Siering's Dr. Block wastes no time reducing his patients to jelly and the audience to hysterics. But this reduces the first two scenes, which are marred by the habit everyone has of swallowing the ends of all their phrases, to mere set-up wherein everyone is waiting for something to explode.

Explode it does! Dr, Block is that something everyone needed to push against. He is provocative, combative, intuitive, deceptively self-critical, and inevitably he fights Lisa Clements' Lucille to a draw in a mano-a-mano of epic proportions. With either of them on stage, anyone dropping the end of a line is lunch.

Oddly, the program lists no set designer, and that may be because the basketball court of the House of Seven Gables Settlement House gives the Wharf Rats an inflexible three-level playing-space, with a large living-room stage-left, a staircase to a breakfast-nook stage-right, and then a large doctor's office up behind everything. The Rats have juggled these areas very imaginatively in the four plays I've seen out in Salem so far, and I have no idea whether Master Carpenter Chet Suchecki or Producer Laney Roberts deserves credit for that imagination, but someone does.

The Rats will be doing another play --- the winner of last year's Crossing Borders Playwriting Contest "Mother, Tree, Cat" by Dori Appel --- in August, and I can't wait to see how they bend that play around this set! I always have a great time in Salem.


"Psychopathia Sexualis" (till 25 April)
The Settlement House, 114 Derby Street, SALEM

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide