The revival of Christopher Durang’s absurdist comedy, Beyond Therapy, might, at first, seem hopelessly dated to the early 1980’s. Historical and cultural references of the era abound. Newspaper personal ads, discos, and being in therapy are central parts of the show’s landscape. But the tale of two wayward singles looking for a meaningful relationship continues to resonate decades later. Twenty and thirty somethings still seek that special soul mate. The pathway is no longer via newspaper personals, but through online dating sites such as eHarmony.com, Match.com, and OKCupid.com. The Internet provides weary, lonely hearts with the possibility of more extensive, more pictorial information but that guarantees nothing. As the caption for the iconic New Yorker cartoon states: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
In Beyond Therapy, having its first New York revival since the short-lived 1982 Broadway run, Prudence (Liv Rooth), an unsure, self-conscious, self-doubting woman, answers a personal ad put in by Bruce (Mark Alhadeff), a neurotic, rather strange, confused, and unconventional individual. Their first meeting, to put it mildly, doesn’t go too well and serves as fodder for visits to their respective psychiatrists who, it turns out, are just as confused and quirky, if not more so, then their patients. Through a number of scenes at a restaurant, their doctor’s offices, and Bruce’s apartment (which he shares with his whining male lover) the two love-starved loners attempt to forge some type of liaison.
While Durang’s meditation on single life can ring true with today’s audiences the play itself comes across as too loosely structured and more a series of strung together vignettes. Some are very funny but, overall, just mildly amusing is a better way to describe the show. However, whatever the shortcoming of the script it is being given a glistening production by The Actors Company Theatre (TACT). Their artistry is first-rate as the ensemble of performers deliver an acting clinic, which is such a joy to watch. The entire cast deserves to be praised. In addition to the superb Liv Rooth and Mark Alhadeff, Karl Kenzler is marvelously pathetic as Prudence’s oversexed shrink. Cynthia Darlow is entertainingly kooky as Bruce’s off-center psychiatrist and Jeffrey C. Hawkins is wonderfully woeful as Bruce’s live-in boyfriend. Michael Schantz, in the small role of the waiter, is sufficiently creepy and intimidating at the same time.
Scott Alan Evan’s direction is crisp and firmly in sync with his actors. Scenes that could be mundane and matter-of-fact are enlivened with inspired lunacy. His strength, though, is enriching the characters with idiosyncratic mannerisms and delusional eccentricities. A whimsical touch are the changeovers between scenes where the performers rearrange set pieces as they execute casual disco moves.
Beyond Therapy, an outstanding ensemble of acting talent in an intermittently humorous production.