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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Beyond Therapy
Westport Country Playhouse

Beyond Therapy
Kathleen McNenny and Stephen Wallem
Beyond Therapy benefits from a delightfully wacky production now transpiring across the performance stage boards at Westport Country Playhouse through May 14th. Christopher Durang's diverting and over-the-top comedy allows for catharsis for actors and those watching as dysfunction carries this 100-minute farce.

The initial scene (one which is revisited) occurs at a Manhattan restaurant during the early 1980s. Prudence (Nicole Lowrance) meets Bruce (Jeremy Peter Johnson). She writes for People Magazine and he is an attorney. He placed a personal ad in the newspaper and she responded. Bob happens to be bisexual and she is aghast when he explains this. Now, these two sit at a table and attempt to converse.

Fast forward to psychiatrists. Prudence visits Stuart (Trent Dawson), whom she addresses as Dr. Framingham. These two had an affair but, forgive this, it was cut short since Stuart suffers from premature ejaculation. Bruce schedules a session with his shrink, Charlotte (Kathleen McNenny), who displays and utilizes a stuffed Snoopy dog (she simulates the staccato barks) to make some points. Charlotte has some trouble getting her words straight and her memory is, to understate, lacking in coherence.

Prudence eventually has an unusual encounter with Bob (Stephen Wallem), who happens to be Bruce's boyfriend. Bob, it seems, is caught in the midst of the overall hysteria.

David Kennedy directs the shenanigans by pushing the pace and freeing this fine ensemble (which eventually includes Nick Gehlfuss as Andrew, played as kind of a tough waiter) to open the metaphorical faucets. Irony and satire? Therapists are not portrayed in the kindest of lights. Then again, this is all in fun.

One scene dissolves into the next and Kennedy makes the wise decision not to include an intermission; the constancy feeds the piece. Jennifer Caprio's costuming is nifty given the 1980s era (especially Bruce's shirt when he first appears—check out the wide-ranging collar). Many people, a few decades later, continue to perpetuate the thematic skepticism of analysts. Yes, Durang exaggerates the absurdity but the point is well taken.

The sometimes frantic comedy becomes a feast for McNenny who plays the totally loony therapist. Now and again, the possible relationship between Prudence and Bob is accessed. At evening's end, everyone convenes at the restaurant. Here, Lowrance's Prudence lets loose with her feelings. Durang, by the way, laces his script with obscenities; given the circumstances, profane language is entirely appropriate.

Durang employs caricature and parody to extreme. A sight gag, par excellence, involves a starter pistol—a shiny gun which goes off but never draws blood. The overall climate, inclusive of one bizarre vignette after another, opens doors for laughter. Each successive actor becomes the butt of a joke. The performers are exposed while the audience, initially passive, is quickly drawn in.

Beyond Therapy, as it goes in Westport, is amusing from its first moment. Praise, here, to playwright Durang. His writing is sharp, clever and most welcome.

Beyond Therapy continues at Westport Country Playhouse through May 14th. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.WestportPlayhouse.org.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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