“Beyond Therapy” - Westport Country Playhouse
By Susan Granger
Back in 1981, when Christopher Durang’s bizarrely contemporary comedy opened off-Broadway, it was considered sharp and savvy, even shocking, as it explored the elusive romantic relationship between two Manhattanites, both of whom are under the care of psychiatrists.
Having found each other through a ‘personal’ ad, they meet at a restaurant. Bruce (Jeremy Peter Johnson) is an impulsive, highly emotional bisexual, while uptight Prudence (Nicole Lowrance) is immediately judgmental. That dinner date is a disaster, as they report to their respective therapists: Prudence’s overtly lecherous Stuart (Trent Dawson) and Bruce’s eccentric Charlotte (Kathleen McNenny), who stumbles over her words when she tries to express herself and uses a Snoopy dog to interact with her patients. Trying to be helpful, Charlotte suggests that Bruce place another, revised ad. As luck would have it, Prudence once again turns up as Bruce’s blind date at the same restaurant. This time, however, they make more of a connection and subsequently involve Bruce’s live-in boyfriend Bob (Stephen Wallem), along with Charlotte, Stuart and Andrew (Nick Gehlfuss), an elusive waiter.
Unfortunately, what was frantic, even farcical, original fun 30 years ago seems dated, even quaint now. Yet director David Kennedy has assembled a superb cast with a playful sense of comedic timing, and his entire production team is outstanding. Indeed, Kennedy has done a far better job than writer/director Robert Altman, whose 1987 “Beyond Therapy” screen adaptation with Julie Haggerty, Jeff Goldblum and Glenda Jackson was an unmitigated disaster, both critically and commercially. And trivia buffs may be amused to discover that David Hyde Pierce made his Broadway debut as the waiter.
Christopher Durang’s other plays include “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You,” “A History of the American Film,” “Laughing Wild,” “The Marriage of Bette and Boo,” “Baby With the Bathwater” and “Wht Torture is Wrong and The People Who Love Them,” and his fans may well enjoy this early, absurdly satirical work, finding an amusing diversion as the Westport Country Playhouse begins its 80th season. “Beyond Therapy” will be presented through May 14th.