Despite some expert comedic work by director Alex Timbers and his cast, however, the current production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival feels - well, anything but current. Durang's needy singles and narcissistic therapists are caught in an awkward limbo: too familiar as targets of satire to feel fresh, and too removed from contemporary life to seem believable. Maybe part of the problem is the show's very popularity: How can we rediscover it if it's never gone away?
The bolded sentence caught me attention, (as I don't really think needy singles and therapists are that much removed from contemporary life.)
I have seen many productions of Beyond Therapy: college productions, professional productions, community theatre productions, small theatre productions and fringe theatre productions. I have seen countless variations of scenes from the play in acting classes, both as a student and as a teacher. I have even been in a production of the play once, (actually I was in another Durang play that served as the curtain raiser for Beyond Therapy. But I had to sit around and see the play every night from the wings.)
Maybe somebody should try and do a One Man Beyond Therapy?
Watching Gurnet Theatre Project's Essential Self Defense I saw that much of the first act of the Adam Rapp play is, well, Beyond Therapy. Not a rip-off, or a cheap copy of Durang, (Rapp has a wit and style of his own,) but more like a use of the basic structure. That structure being this: Two singles, on a first date, talking right past each other.
In that respect, we see quite a bit of Beyond Therapy inside many new plays today.
Woman: Are you thinking you might like to have children?
Man: I think that diapers with printed patterns on them are a subtle way of introducing the idea of the implanted bar code to us when we are very young.
Woman: Oh...I've never thought of it that way.
Man: But you've thought about having children a lot, haven't
you? (Beat.) I like the way you breath...in through your nose.
Woman: Thank you, I guess.
Man: Anteaters do that. Do you know that anteaters, in some native cultures, are considered the most beautiful animal in the ecosystem?
Woman: That's nice. Do you like anthropology?
Man: No. Anthropology is a lie created to repress our sexual desires. I just like anteaters.
Woman: Oh, I like Panda Bears.
Woman: Do you always do that?
Woman: Sit with one finger in your drinking glass?
Man: The temperature of beverages upon consumption is very important to the regeneration of skin.
Woman: Well, you have nice skin. I'm not sure I like that word:"beverages." It seems like there are a lot of silly words out there. Like commitment, marriage, desperation.
It's a poor parody, but I hope you get the general point. It's not that this stuff can't be really funny. Good actors can make a meal out this kind of thing, and as long the playwright is actually funny, they can sustain it for quite a while.