“BEYOND THERAPY” A GREAT VISIT FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

BONNIE GOLDBERG

The characters who people playwright Christopher Durang’s world are all in need of serious therapy, perhaps the psychiatrists most of all.  His unique brand of humor is sweetly crazy and crazily sweet, with an emphasis on the unbalanced and out-of-kilter variety.  To know that he is actually a proponent of the therapy process, that he is an active participant and has been for decades, may help to understand the humor he brings to the subject.

Whatever side of the question you stand on, you can’t help but laugh at the delightfully funny problems Durang creates in his comedy “Beyond Therapy,” enjoying a wonderful airing at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, May 14.

Match.com, twitter and Facebook weren’t always the rage.  Long ago people relied on blind dates and going to bars to meet a significant other.  For Bruce (Jeremy Peter Johnson) and Prudence (Nicole Lowrance), their social networking vehicle of choice is the personal ad.  He wrote it, she answered it and a restaurant is their arranged place to meet.

From the first moment, it is clear that they are an inappropriate and mismatched couple.  She is shy and awkward, he is too personal.  She wants a strong man, he likes to cry.  Her instinct is to run away, his is to propose marriage.  She is often disappointed with men, he has a male lover.  Not a match made in heaven you might agree.

After a disastrous first and only meeting, the two run for comfort and consoling to their therapists.  Prudence’s Stuart (Trent Dawson) is an outwardly macho, inwardly insecure master manipulator who has rather personal and intimate plans for his patient.   Bruce’s Charlotte (Kathleen McNenny) applauds every step he takes and cheers him on, but she is never quite sure which patient she is treating for which problem.  Perhaps she should confine herself to taking care of her stuffed dog Snoopy and let it go at that.

To this weird menu of characters, add Bruce’s lover Bob (Stephen Wallem), Bob’s mother Sadie who calls and sings on the telephone, and the restaurant’s invisible waiter Andrew (Nick Gehlfuss) who finally delivers food and alternative dishes.  David Kennedy directs this involving play on the humor of psychological suffering on a clever revolving set designed by Lee Savage.

For tickets ($40-60), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 203-227-4177 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.

Come discover if a woman who is afraid of vanilla ice cream can find happiness with a man who personally promotes the stock of the Kleenex Paper Company?

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