Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, August 2000
You are warned at the very outset that you will hear vulagr language, water will be thrown and shots will be fired during the course of Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy.” If you don’t like any or all of those things, please don’t go see this show. But if that sounds like a pile of fun to you, call for tickets NOW because this is one heck of a fun evening, even if you do risk getting a little wet from time to time.
The is Victory Street Productions' second foray into script based theatre, and it is wildly successful. Director Thorman Hulse, who appears in the show as Dr. Stuart Framingham, has assembled a really fine cast of local amateurs, many of whom have strong track records on local stages, and all of whom seem to be having a lot of fun in this show.
“Beyond Therapy” is the tale of two seriously messed up people - Bruce (Brian Plouffe) and Prudence (Karen Bordeau) who meet through a personal ad and immediately start to drive each other crazy (or crazier in this case.) Bruce is bisexual and lives with Bob (Paul Mekdeci), who feels justifiably jealous of his partner’s sudden decision to date, marry and reproduce with a woman. Both Bruce and Prudence confide their troubles to their therapists - in her case to Dr. Framingham (Hulse), and in his to the delightfully dotty Dr. Charlotte Wallace (Kathryn Macek), a woman who only marries men with the surname Wallace and who suffers from aphasia brought on by low blood sugar.
I found that Durang had a hard time bringing his script to a conclusion. Towards the end I felt as if I were listening to Dudley Moore’s memorable performance of the Colonel Bogie March in which there are endless codas and no ending. But that is not the fault of Hulse or his cast. The changes they have made to the script, to bring it up to date in its topical references (the show is at least 20 years old), are perfect. They really ought to send them along to Durang to include in a new edition of the script.
Hulse and Macek have had success with Durang before, notably with her star turn in “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You,” and they are both hilarious in this production. Macek is just perfect as the dotty Dr. Wallace, who embodies a chillingly accurate parody of many professional therapy techniques. And Hulse is delightfully loud and boorish as Dr. Framingham, the therapist who sleeps with his patients. These two, who have been a driving force in community theatre in northern Berkshire for over twenty years, are moving to the California in November. I wish them well in La-La Land and hope that they have inspired others equally dedicated to follow in their footsteps locally.
I always enjoy seeing Plouffe, although he is, perhaps, a little too sane for this play. I had not seen Karen Bordeau before, and I enjoyed her performance as the repressed and traditional Prudence very much. It was a pleasure to see Mekdeci play a role in which he got to wear normal clothes and really act, rather than over-act. Entertaining as his over-the-top drag queen characters have been, I saw more of his talent under much less make-up this time round.
“Beyond Therapy” is a moveable feast, being performed August 12 at the Appalchian Bean Cafe on Main Street in North Adams, and on August 18 and 19 at Corner Lunch on the corner of Spring and Summer Streets in Adams. The show runs an hour and forty-five minutes, and it contains adult language and situations. Tickets are $8, curtain is at 8 p.m., and seating is limited so please call for reservations 413-743-9319.
And if you want to see even more Durang before the summer is out, Barrington Stage is offering his play “The Actor’s Nightmare” on a double bill with Luke J. Taylor’s “Writer’s Block” on their Stage II through August 20.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2000