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)

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