February 21, 2006

Theater Review - Beyond Therapy

The Wayward Actors Company seems to be an ambitious group. They have myriad sponsors, a mission statement that appears to include everything from Shakespeare to Beckett and an all-inclusive Web site. You can even buy a Wayward Actors wall clock if the spirit moves you. And as a former theater producer, I would like to see this well organized group become successful.Unfortunately, the group seems to be missing one key ingredient: a quality stage product.“Beyond Therapy” is a fantastic script penned by Christopher Durang, one of America’s top playwrights. With its gynocentric structure, the play’s strength lies in the examination of neurotic characters who straddle the line of insanity.The main thread of this play explores the bizarre relationship of Bruce (Rich Galey) and Prudence (Rebecca Grider) as they make the progression from bad blind date to marriage proposal in a matter of weeks. Both are going through separate therapy nightmares, which is Durang’s way of saying “modern psychotherapy has lost its way.” At the end of the first act, we are introduced to Bob (Michael Pace), Bruce’s lover of a year who lives above the garage. Prudence and Bob have a difficult time coexisting, and this conflict drives all three to the brink of madness.Galey shines as Bruce, single-handedly saving the scenes he shares with Grider and Jo Self (Mrs. Wallace). You are left wondering how good he may have been if his accomplices were more skilled. Pace also shows he understands the louder, faster and funnier world of “Beyond Therapy.” His Bob is so over the top that he actually seems real.Because John Hess (Stuart), Grider and Self all appear not to understand important elements of the play, I must conclude that the director, Craig S. Dolgin, has let his actors down. Whenever these three are onstage, the pacing is slow and the action’s boring. Thus their performances lack purpose and commitment to the text. If Wayward had a nickel for every vocal pause while in search of a line, they could have hired a better director.The problems with this show do not stop at the poor performances. The set is clumsy and poorly designed; someone forgot that less is more. There are also two inexplicably long scene changes that I blame on a lack of production experience. And although “Beyond Therapy” is a period piece set in the 1970s, I only know this because the script mentions Sean Cassidy and “Three’s Company.” Dolgin seems to think you can take a shirt from the ’90s, undo a few buttons and call it period.Much of the Louisville theater community is still searching for an artistic identity, and Wayward’s “Beyond Therapy” falls right in line. If you are interested in supporting local arts or you are a fan of Durang’s work, there is enough in the way of Galey and Pace to satiate your appetite. However, if you are conservative with your entertainment dollar, sit this one out.