Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Can we get Beyond Beyond Therapy?

Louise Kennedy is out in Williamstown for the opening of Beyond Therapy. The review seems like a struggle, but I really don't blame her. She hits the nail on the head with this paragraph:

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.


Man: Mmm-Mmm

Woman: Do you always do that?

Man: What?

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.


Thomas Garvey said...

I confess to a certain weakness for Beyond Therapy; even if its central character's "bisexuality" feels like a beard we don't need anymore, its skewering of the wacky solipsisms driving many therapists - and perhaps therapy itself - seems to me still utterly on target. And I, too, noticed the contradiction embodied in Kennedy's two overlapping claims - on the one hand, the show is "removed from contemporary life," but at the same time, it's wildly popular. Hmmm.

Art said...

I also think that the play is simply stuctured better than almost any comedies being written today.

In my opinion, it is a pretty nice piece of craftsmanship. It gets a little loose at the very end, but in an sense that is organic to the rest of the play.