Full Length Plays. Beyond Therapy. Cast was:. Prior to Broadway. The cast was:. The off-Broadway production was directed by Jerry Zaks, whom Durang went on to work with successfully several more times.
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Some day, I swear, the explosive comic brilliance of Christopher Durang will erupt on Broadway. The only question is when. It didn't happen in , when this playwright's ''A History of the American Film'' capsized in a spectacularly ill-conceived production. And it didn't happen last night, when Mr. Durang's latest play, ''Beyond Therapy,'' pretty much wilted of its own volition at the Brooks Atkinson.
But we must be patient with this gifted fellow - he'll get there yet. It contained some hilarious jokes, uneasily tied to a bland, dramatically amorphous romance involving two ish singles who meet through a personals ad. For Broadway, the play has been tightened and revised: It has two new leads, a new director and a totally reversed ending. Yet, for all the hard work, the final result is unchanged.
We still don't care whether Bruce John Lithgow , a bisexual lawyer, and Prudence Dianne Wiest , a writer for People magazine, ever get married or not. We still laugh at the stronger jokes - although they sound somewhat tinnier in a Broadway house. The funniest riffs belong to the hero and heroine's respective therapists -perhaps the most outrageous quacks to be seen since W. Fields practiced dentistry.
Prudence's doctor Peter Michael Goetz likes to seduce his female patients and then gets hostile when the women complain about his lack of carnal expertise. Dysart of ''Equus,'' tends to confuse words ''thermidor'' for ''therapy'' and carries a Snoopy doll with her at all times. Durang's savage view of psychiatry runs so deep that it's no wonder that the doctors, and the actors who play them, run away with the evening. Goetz, last seen as John Barrymore in ''Ned and Jack,'' is uproariously sinister: He smokes a pipe and cigarette simultaneously and literally dances for joy when handed an opportunity to humiliate a patient.
At the same time, however, the therapy gags are defeating: like too many jokes in this play, they compromise the credibility of the figures at center stage. Would Bruce, who has a live-in male lover the delightfully tremulous Jack Gilpin , really go to a therapist who is openly disgusted by homosexuality and who often doesn't remember his name? Would Prudence, a sensitive, decent sort, continue to see a doctor who first seduces her and then threatens her with electroshock treatments?
Perhaps we should take the playwright's exaggeration in good fun - as merciless satire, as stylization. But even if we buy Bruce and Prudence's weakness for sleazy therapists, this putative couple still doesn't add up. Why would Prudence, who also ''hates'' homosexuals, tolerate the bisexual Bruce, and why would he keep chasing her?
Durang's jokey, throw-away rationalizations for this odd courtship provide no enlightenment. Nor do the other lines fill in the blanks in these people; the playwright never summons up the passion for his leads that he does for their doctors. We're repeatedly told that Bruce must learn to take emotional risks, that Prudence must learn to accept people's imperfections.
Both characters are apparently lonely and want children. And that's it. Otherwise, this is a colorless, if whiny, pair who keep coming together and splitting apart as aimlessly as billiard balls. Lithgow and Miss Wiest, like Stephen Collins and Sigourney Weaver in the previous production, work hard and often charmingly, but there can be no sparks.
They remain empty, anonymous vessels for arbitrary one-liners. Some of the jokes are priceless sallies about show business from ''Pacific Overtures'' to ''Auntie Mame'' ; others notably those invoking Gary Gilmore and David Berkowitz are irrelevant and forced. Nor is there a well-conceived farcical plot to connect the sketchlike scenes; it's not until the last of Act I's six scenes that more than two characters appear on stage at once.
John Madden, who directed ''Grown Ups'' so incisively, has little choice but to match the archness of the writing here, and the rat-atat Broadway rhythm of the punch lines sounds desperate after a while.
The stylized pacing is slowed by Andrew Jackness's sets, which perfectly capture the soft colors and hard angles of contemporary Manhattan but move all too cumbersomely - to the wrong-note accompaniment of trashy, piped-in music. Yet the real disappointment in ''Beyond Therapy'' is the script, and nowhere is this better crystallized than when Mr. Durang brings on a favorite prop - a gun that is pulled by an angry character.
There's a gun in ''Sister Mary,'' too, and when it shoots, it kills - a conceit that seems entirely right in the context of that play's fierce emotions about human suffering and religion. By contrast, the barking pistol in ''Beyond Therapy'' proves a toy - as if to confirm that nothing in this play is for keeps, that no feelings are strongly held.
This isn't to say that ''Beyond Therapy'' needs a few murders; what it needs are jokes rooted in real people who arouse either the author's compassion or anger. That's what Mr. Durang gave us so powerfully in ''Sister Mary,'' and that's why he shouldn't settle now for firing comic blanks idly into the air. Will They Marry? B ruce John Lithgow P rudence Dianne Wiest S tuart Peter Michael Goetz C harlotte Kate McGregor-Stewart B ob Jack Gilpin A ndrew David Pierce. View on timesmachine.
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Beyond Therapy is a play by Christopher Durang. This farcical comedy focuses on Prudence and Bruce, two Manhattanites who are seeking stable romantic relationships with the help of their psychiatrists, each of whom suggests their patient place a personal ad in the newspaper. Bruce is a highly emotional bisexual who tends to cry easily, a trait Prudence sees as a weakness. Their first meeting proves to be disastrous and the two report back to their respective therapists—libidinous Stuart, who once seduced Prudence, and eccentric Charlotte, who stumbles over the simplest of words, who references the play Equus as a good source of advice, and who interacts with her patients with the help of a stuffed Snoopy doll.
COMEDY: DURANG'S 'BEYOND THERAPY'
Some day, I swear, the explosive comic brilliance of Christopher Durang will erupt on Broadway. The only question is when. It didn't happen in , when this playwright's ''A History of the American Film'' capsized in a spectacularly ill-conceived production. And it didn't happen last night, when Mr.