By John Farrell
Some plays are meant for smaller theaters. Beyond Therapy, which opened last week at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro, is one of them.
When Beyond Therapy appeared on Broadway in 1981, it didn’t last three weeks. But in the 30 odd years since then, it has been performed all over the United States in small theaters and amateur productions. It has been called playwright Christopher Durang’s masterpiece. With a brilliantly selected cast and a simple one-set production (one of the play’s characters notes how her shrink’s office looks just like the restaurant she was recently at) you’ll wonder what Broadway missed. It was probably the plays hidden innocence.
Meredith M. Sweeney is Prudence, the not-so-secure New Yorker using personal ads (at the advice of her psycho-therapist) to find a boyfriend. She is all sweetness and demure charm, and unfazed when the first date she meets (the very handsome Bruce portrayed by Olen Aleksander) praises her breasts when they sit down at a restaurant where they can’t get service. Bruce explains that he already has a boyfriend, but is bi-sexual and wants a woman in his life. He also cries a lot. Despite everything, Prudence does seem to like him.
Her shrink, Stuart (Christopher Violette), helps her write a new ad, though he would prefer she continue her affair with him. Bruce’s own shrink, the redoubtable Charlotte (played with a bit of Madame Arcati by the brilliant Madeleine Drake) manages to tell him to keep trying, though her stuffed toy Snoopy and a major speech defect (she calls her secretary a “dirigible” and her patients “porpoises”) do get in the way.
Not surprisingly Prudence and Bruce do get together, but then there is Bob (another great creation by Jason Mack) who is determined not to share. And finally there is the waiter Andrew (Tristan Peach) who can only be summoned by gun-shot. Not to worry– no one is hurt by the starter’s pistol and everything comes out, more or less, right.
Director Don Schlossman knows how to work at Little Fish. The actors he has assembled are each perfect in their roles, with Sweeney’s delicious performance as Prudence and Aleksander a mix of sheer attractiveness and amiable angst. Costumes by Adriana Lambari are perfect, especially Charlotte’s over-the-top outfits (including a remarkable orange ensemble.
The secret of Beyond Therapy, is its heart. You care about these people, except the smarmy Stuart, and are genuinely glad when they work it out.
Tickets are $25, $23 for students and seniors. Performances are Friday, August 10 at 8 p.m., Saturday, August 11 at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday, August 26 at 7 p.m.. and Thursday, September 6 at 8 p.m., through September 8.
Details: (310) 512-6030
Venue: Little Fish Theatre
Location: 777 Centre St., San Pedro