A View from the Cliff: “Beyond Therapy” still ahead of its time

A farcical assault on dating, marriage, sexuality and psychiatry brought riotous laughter to the Heights Players’ “Beyond Therapy” this past weekend.

Originally written by Charles Durang in the early 1980s, its brief life onstage was not due to a lack of jokes. Perhaps the subject matter was ahead of its time. Even now, many of the extremely eccentric characters are too much for our liberal sensibilities. Still, it’s very, very funny.

Before opening curtain, the group’s popular, talented director Bernard Bosio stood center stage acknowledging the good turnout. He also explained that the original comedy was graced by A-list Broadway performers despite the very short run.

The story focuses on poor Prudence (Elizabeth Devlin), who is seeking a relationship through the classified ads. Ms. Devlin is very charming as she morphs from mousy young lady to gun toting, strong-willed woman.

She meets her date Bruce (Jere Williams) at an anonymous restaurant. Williams ably baits the audience with his emotional outbursts and strange comments. They are even funnier when we realize they have been therapeutically encouraged.

Enter their therapists. Dr. Stuart Framingham (William Barry) has broken every moral and ethical rule with Prudence. He completely loses us as a physician but gains our respect as a comedian. Barry’s character is hysterical when confronted by his numerous emotionally violated patients.

Meanwhile, Dr. Charlotte Wallace (Jan Vander Putten), who treats Bruce, is more principled, but equally outlandish. Her stuffed toys and alphabet blocks somehow generate a likable and disarming persona. Her professional techniques, though, are either brilliant psychiatry or symptoms of early senility!

Besides this foursome, there’s Bob (James Martinelli). He’s Bruce roommate in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, his coping skills are pushed to the limit when an unexpected romance actually blossoms between Prudence and Bruce.

The waiter, Andrew (Tyler Ianuzi), who never appears in the first act, finally offers menus in Act II.  As expected, his behavior is as extreme as everyone else. Overall, the entire cast manages to deliver a comedic knock-out. Well done indeed!

The sets (Alan Sporing), costumes (James Martinelli) and music (Peter Lopez) maintain a good sense of the 1980s. Assistant Director/Stage Manager Marialana Ardolino deserves kudos for a smoothly run performance.

For information on this and future productions, surf to www.heightsplayers.org or call 718-237-2752.  As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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