Beyond Therapy

(Centenary Theatre Group)


Speaking as a therapist, which I’m not… I mean that both ways… I mean, I’m not a therapist and so it would seem to follow that I can’t be speaking as one… But then what can anyone ever be sure about anymore, really ? But if I was one, a therapist I mean, in case you’ve forgotten, and could therefore speak as one with some measure of authority, I would say to anyone left who hasn’t yet lost the plot, that if you enjoy the sort of theatre experience which goes over the edge without really running off the rails … “Go see this play!”

For most of the evening, the Centenary Theatre Group’s production of Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy will delight those in need of, considering, or simply curious about “therapy”. It will also introduce those too young to remember to a time when gossip magazines reported more on which celebrities were or weren’t resorting to therapy to restore their publicly damaged egos, than those since, who have resorted to surgery to reshape and restore selected body parts for the public benefit.

In a well orchestrated production, director Len Granato and his determined cast of delightfully neurotic characters establish beyond all reasonable doubt that love, the most elusive of all human conditions, can inhabit a comedic twilight zone which is indeed “Beyond Therapy”. It’s really this simple.

In seeming desperation, Prudence (Jo Syme) who hardly lives up to her name blind-dates a person who has advertised himself as a “white male 30 to 35, six foot two inches, blue eyes etc.” in the personal columns of a New York magazine, without seeming to appreciate that you can advertise for someone 30-35 but not as such a someone.

This someone is Bruce (Peter Condon), who within a minute of their meeting compliments Pru on her breasts, within two reveals his bi-sexuality, admits he’s deeply emotional and likes to cry in three and before we get to five, wants her to have his children. And that’s just the beginning folks.

It may come as some surprise that both Pru and Bru are “in therapy”. Bruce has Charlotte (Laura Wilde). Prudence has Stuart (Cameron Castles). Both the purported professionals establish as quick as an insecure blink that the pair might benefit from a few running repairs to their own egos and interfaces with the real world. Stuart’s having short liaisons with Pru and Charlotte communicates with her clients through toys.

In due course we meet Bruce’s male partner Bob (Mark Scott) and finally Brendon Katowicki as the “Waiter”.

Durang moves us back and forth between four sets, swiftly, simply and effectively established and changed by designer Anne Lyons. The scenes expand from two characters to three and finally to all six with episodes, antics, anxieties and outcomes that more than justify the play’s title.

The talents of the players are well balanced, secure and offer a warm ensemble feeling. All maintain their American accents comfortably and while timing was occasionally uncertain on opening night it will no doubt improve as they settle into the season and find where the best laughs (and there are plenty of them) are. Moderate use of the blue pencil may have helped in this regard.

Walking into the Chelmer Community Centre I was nostalgically reminded of the early playing spaces of Brisbane Repertory, Brisbane Arts, the original Twelfth Night and the U of Q’s Avalon, where imagination made up for limited budgets and where talents of the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Jack Thompson, Barry Otto, Carol Burns, Rowena Wallace and Bille Brown first cut their creative teeth.

Long may such venues survive in our suburbs presenting works with this production’s commitment to production values on a shoe-string or should that be on a strip of velcro these days.

— Ron Finney
(Performance seen: Fri 4th May 2001)