Friday, May 6, 2011

Theater Review: Beyond Therapy -- Westport

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Nicole Lowrance and Jeremy Peter Johnson
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Laughter Can Be Therapeutic
By Lauren Yarger
A date from hell turns into a relationship that’s even less satisfying – but very funny – in Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy opening the 80th season at Westport Country Playhouse.

Bruce (Jeremy Peter Johnson) and Prudence (Nicole Lowrance) meet after answering each other’s personal ads. Bruce starts by complimenting Prudence’s breasts and things go downhill from there, especially when Bruce mentions that he has a male lover named Bob (Stephen Wallem) living over the garage. It’s the ‘80s, after all. Shouldn’t she be cool with that and the fact that Bruce prides himself on being able to cry to show his emotions? The waiter, Andrew (Nick Genlfuss), never comes to take their order to relieve some of the awkward tension.

The date is so bad that it drives each to their psychiatrists, who offer little help. Stuart (Trent Davidson) is more interested in trying to convince Prudence to resume their affair while Charlotte (Kathleen McNenny) seems a prime candidate for some therapy herself when she conducts Bruce’s session with a stuffed Snoopy dog, barking for encouragement.

Charlotte suggests Bruce try again with a rewrite of the personal ad, which brings Prudence to the restaurant for a second encounter with her date from hell. This convinces the couple that they should explore a relationship despite the apparent obstacles.

Playhouse associate artistic director David Kennedy directs great performances across the board and keeps the pace quick to support Durang’s over-the-top sense of humor. The 90-minute performance with no intermission breezes by with a lot of laughter and McNenny is particularly delightful as the whacky Charlotte. The sets are by Lee Savage and costumes are by Jennifer Caprio.

Beyond Therapy runs through May 14 at the Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available by calling 203- 227-4177, toll-free 1-888-927-7529, or by visiting www.westportplayhouse.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced
numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont
Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.”

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway
League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway
run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill
Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/. She
is editor of The award-winning Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com),

She is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Contributing Editor for BroadwayWorld.com, Connecticut theater editor
for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web. Yarger is a book reviewer and writer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented
by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle (awards committee).

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts,
the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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