Few situations in life have the potential for misunderstanding and mayhem more than personal ads and blind dates. Edmonds’ Phoenix Theatre will capitalize on that potential during “Beyond Therapy,” which opens Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m.
“Beyond Therapy,” by playwright Christopher Durang, premiered in 1981 at an off-Broadway theatre named, coincidentally, the Phoenix Theater. “That irony was not lost on us,” quipped one cast member as I sat in on a recent rehearsal of Durang’s work being prepared for Edmonds-area audiences.
The scene I previewed is the restaurant scene in which Prudence is skillfully tossing (and receiving) one-liners in stylish banter during a dinner party attended by her bisexual date, Bruce (who has answered her personals ad); his long-time lover Bob; and psychiatrists, Charlotte Wallace and Stuart Farmingham. The mirth and misunderstandings are delicious ingredients to a riotously funny restaurant scene – that includes Prudence pulling a gun on the party’s waiter (played by Dan Jacoby) as she demands that the gay reform-schooled man be the one who marries her as she attempts to side-step matrimony with cry-baby Bruce; or her seductor- psychiatrist, Dr. Farmingham.
Edmonds resident Jasmine Joshua will play Prudence portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the original production. Ms. Joshua most recently appeared in Phoenix Theatre’s production of “A Nice Family Gathering”. When asked which of her character’s traits were most like her own Ms. Joshua responded impressively that Prudence is “searching to balance the paradox of her life – she wants the duality of being a modern, achievement-oriented woman while also enjoying a rich, traditional home life.”
Cast opposite Ms. Joshua is David Bailey as Bruce, bi-sexual and fawningly desperate for connection. Bailey describes the character he plays as, “insufferably positive” – a little like himself, he explained; though he admits to “a touch of cynicism”. The on-stage chemistry between the two leads as Bruce grovels and Prudence fends off his advances is a riot!
Austin Gregory plays Dr. Stuart Farmingham, the jilted therapist. Even in rehearsal Mr. Gregory establishes his talent for deadpan; play close attention to his performance – it’s perfectly nuanced. Melanie Calderwood is cast as Charlotte Wallace. Ms. Calderwood generously supports the cast onstage as they deliver their lines; and off-stage as a member of the theatre’s board. She seems perfectly suited as the syntax-stumbling psychiatrist. As a member of the play reading committee that selects its comedic productions Ms. Calderwood observes that the company’s decision to feature comedies was based upon the presumption that their audience members are looking for escape from the drama and worry in their lives and the selection of well-written theatrical comedies is so rich.
In Beyond Therapy double-entendres combine with tangled jealousies; and relationship jostling dance through the play as two Manhattan psychiatrists guide their respective lovelorn patients, Prudence and Bruce, through the jumbles of dating – with questionable success and hilarious results. The flirting and hilarious cloying between characters Bob (Mike Fadden) and the gay waiter, Andrew (Dan Jacoby) is worth the price of admission.
As I entered the theatre Ms. Joshua was being assisted in her wardrobe by Vickie Lewis – Presto! Change-O! In a matter of six minutes the competent actor went through three wardrobe changes. Once the verbal slap-downs and hilarious banter between the Phoenix cast members settled down, director Eric Lewis skillfully guided the cast members to a point where their timing was impeccable, the lines were delivered with wit; and the technical aspects of movement were polished. What no director can coach, but which was very much in evidence during my visit to the Phoenix Theatre, was the camaraderie and interplay between the cast members – it was as good as anything that Durang himself could have written for these six actors.
The production is scheduled to run Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, March 2, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. General admission is $18.50; juniors/seniors/military admission is set at $15.50. Tickets are available by calling 206-533-2000 or online.
Many Phoenix Theatre ticket holders begin their evening with dinner at Caravan Kebab (9711 Firdale Ave.) across the parking lot from the Phoenix Theatre. Caravan Kebab specializes in a warm atmosphere – perfect for winter – and a rich menu comprised of fragrant Mediterranean dishes.
Emily Hill is an author and long-time resident of Edmonds. She is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or venue featured, in Artfully Edmonds, Emily invites you to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.