“Beyond Therapy,” Westport Country Playhouse

--Irene Backalenick

“Beyond Therapy,” Christopher Durang’s comedy now at the Westport Country Playhouse, succeeds in all respects—except where it counts the most. It is the play itself which disappoints, despite the fact that this Playhouse production is well-staged, designed, and performed.

Though described in press releases as “wickedly funny,” “Beyond Therapy” never truly deserves those adjectives. Too bad, since Durang has potentially hilarious material at hand. What easy targets psychotherapists—and their patients—can be! These, along with the foibles of modern-day dating, are all grist for the mill. But one waits in vain for that WOW! moment, as the characters go through their paces. One expects more, given Durang’s fine track record with such other plays as “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” and “The Marriage of Betty and Boo.

As to the story: Prudence and Bruce meet, having made contact through a personal ad. It is a disastrous first date, as Bruce loses his temper, bursts into tears, flings a glass of water at Prudence, and acknowledges that he lives with his male lover. They are off to a rocky start--and, for the play, a promising beginning.

One hopes for more, as the play moves on, for a high-level sense of hilarity and wildness. But it remains just out of reach.
          
Granted there are redeeming moments. Durang has skillfully created a sensible, bewildered Prudence as the core of the madness surrounding her. And the two therapists are properly goofy, as is Bruce’s sulky, petulant lover. And Durang’s portrayal of the restaurant where one never gets service is a nice touch. Only when the characters literally tear the place apart does the waiter appear. It’s a laugh-out-loud moment.

The production itself, adroitly directed by David Kennedy, must be viewed in a positive light. It moves along smoothly, swiftly, from one short scene to another, played out against Lee Savage’s slick, minimal set design. And the solid cast (Trent Dawson, Nick Gehlfuss, Jeremy Peter Johnson, Nicole Lowrance, Kathleeen McNenny, and Stephen Wallem)—comes through with first-rate ensemble work, led off by the admirable Lowrance as Prudence.
             
In short, there’s bad news and good news this time around at the Westport Playhouse.

This also appears in the Connecticut Post, and nytheaterscene.com.

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