Wild and wacky 

Spontaneous Productions goes Beyond Therapy

Spontaneous Productions is presenting its final show in its "Off Broadway" location on Williams Street, and appropriately, it's a raucous, satiric play by Christopher Durang, noted for his simultaneously dark and playfully biting comedies. It's fast and funny. And for some folks, Beyond Therapy is really a "feel-good" play. Who wouldn't feel good­­-and lucky-after watching two basically nice people, Bruce and Prudence, get completely screwed up by following their crazy therapists' advice? And crazy is a mild word to describe the bizarre actions of Dr. Stuart Framingham (Robert McDiarmid) and Mrs. Wallace (Michele Hendryx) as they scramble their patients' minds and lives with their own hilarious hang-ups.

Hendryx, aglitter in her flamboyant gypsy costume, almost steals the show as she advises her patients to get in touch with their instincts. She is aided by talking stuffed animals and challenged by her memory problem with words. She calls her patients porpoises, and her secretary a dirigible. She flirts, doesn't believe in repressing herself and paints a silly, fun-loving picture of a woman who may be crazy, but has lots of fun in the process.

Hendryx seemed to have a few problems with lines on opening night, but she is right on the mark with her character's personality. McDiarmid, on the other hand, portrays a dark and harmful purveyor of mental health. He really makes you hate him while you laugh at him. He's slimy, obnoxious and makes sexual advances to his female patients. His nasty judgmental opinions could crush a more vulnerable person than Prudence.

Fortunately, thanks to Director Gerry Bryant's firm control, the two main characters hold their own and are completely captivating in their strange courtship and burgeoning relationship. Ian Taylor is perfect as the eager beau Bruce, advertising in the personal column and proposing in the first five minutes. His unconventional situation and behavior gets the couple off to a rocky start and a stormy ending to their first meeting. But destiny beckons and they meet again. Will they actually get together and "look into the abyss" of the future?

Nova Calverley gives a superb performance as the confused but feisty Prudence. She is intrigued by Bruce, but can't quite cope with his living arrangements. Calverley deals with all her character's problems with intelligence, wit and a lively spirit. Even her confrontations with Bob, Bruce's roommate/lover, show her gallant attempts at adaptability.

Justin Boyer plays Bob, resplendent in pink, with fiercely sullen charm, and Kenny Roeper makes his jewel of a part as the elusive waiter, a very funny addition to this unconventional, rollicking comedy. Author Durang can sometimes be tasteless in his humor; sometimes offensive, such as in his Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, which even Catholics love (but won't admit it). So be warned: expect adult language.

Beyond Therapy is a fun evening, and much more challenging than a Neil Simon romp. We all know dating is hard enough these days, without dysfunctional psychiatrists exacerbating the situation. The only flaws slowing down the manic pace of the show are the irritating scene changes. There are four basic locales, and the play would flow much more smoothly if they could be set up and the action moved by spotlights on the different sites. Small stages call for more innovative set ideas.

8 p.m., $10, Fridays and Saturdays through June 11, Additional performances June 2 and 9, 1-866-468-7624, www.sponprod.com, all TicketWeb outlets or at door.

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