Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Stage West pushes the envelope with comedy 'Beyond Therapy'

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Online theater critic Wade Bradford describes Christopher Durang's 1981 sex comedy Beyond Therapy as a "satirical, absurdist farce" that is "ideal for college and professional stage companies who cater to edgier audiences" and not "typical community theater fare."

That's not only because of the subject matter — a bisexual man seeking a potential mother for his future children, while dealing with a jealous, live-in male lover — but also because the script is sprinkled the "f" word and other profanity that may or may not turn off audiences at Stage West Community Playhouse, where it opens Thursday and continues for two subsequent weekends in the theater's Forum.

New York critics loved the show, giving it high praise. New York Daily News critic Rex Reed called it "one of the funniest shows I've seen in years." Los Angeles Times critic Dan Sullivan said it is "zany in a particularly intelligent way … wickedly funny, terribly slanted, and essentially true," a slam at personal therapy.

The playwright himself calls Beyond Therapy one of his "sunnier comedies." It is one of the prolific writer's most popular and frequently performed plays, and it was the basis of a feature film in 1987, which wasn't nearly as successful as the play.

In it, the lonely, 30ish Prudence (Miranda Griffin, Sonia in They're Playing Our Song) replies to a personal ad placed by the charming, overly-sensitive, emotional Bruce (Patrick Moran, HAMI for Move Over, Mrs. Markham). Although Bruce already has a mate, that mate happens to be Bob (Danny Brijbag, eight acting HAMIs), and Bob can't produce the kids that Bruce wants.

Prudence and Bruce are encouraged toward romance by their therapists, who are obviously more troubled than their patients. The unethical Dr. Stewart Framingham (Bill Dimmitt, HAMIs for My Fair Lady and Sweet Charity) has already seduced Prudence; Bruce's therapist, Charlotte (Jeanine Martin, four HAMIs) is so befuddled and addled that she can't figure out what to say.

At first, Prudence and Bruce detest each other. But after Bruce re-writes his personal ad and Prudence responds to that one, too, they realize that they may really like each other. Until Bob inserts himself into the situation, that is.

Director W. Paul Wade (six HAMIs for acting) will be sorely challenged to keep his players reined in so the dialogue can make this play all that it can be without any silliness. Women's Wear Daily notes that the play is "filled with off beat laugh lines (and) wry observations on the contemporary urban psyche," an indication that the dialogue, rather than physical humor, should be allowed to shine.

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