Beyond help

Theatre Three offers a dysfunctional production of Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy

Ambre Low as Prudence and Mark Shum as Bob aren't necessarily any less manic and conspicuous than the other performers, but they do register just the barest aftertaste of pathos. Bob, threatened by Prudence, who is herself threatened by the relationship between Bob and Bruce, endorses lesbianism as a cure for Prudence's ills, and when she seems at one point to take him up on it, Shum, who frets with flourishes but doesn't descend into mincing and prancing, rises from his chair and glows like a firecracker. Prudence recounts her own lech for Cary Grant, but admits that the recollections of Grant's widow Dyan Cannon suggest he was a less-than-perfect husband. "If there's no point marrying Cary Grant," she wonders with building agitation, "then what's the point of getting married at all?" The last clause is uttered as a scream that escapes by accident, and it offers a nice purge for Low's trembly, fenced-in Prudence.

Mark Shum, Ambre Low, and Terry Dobson make strange bedfellows in Theatre Three's intermittently funny staging of Christopher Durang's most famous play.
Mark Shum, Ambre Low, and Terry Dobson make strange bedfellows in Theatre Three's intermittently funny staging of Christopher Durang's most famous play.

Details

Through August 29

(214) 871-3300

In an essay for Nerve magazine, Durang expresses some wonderment at the critical rejection of his 1996 three-act Lincoln Center production Sex and Longing. He decided that he hadn't fleshed out the "longing" part of the title, simply because the very sound of that word spoken evoked its meaning inside of him -- a sad and inexplicable yearning. He assumed audiences felt similarly. In the weakest moments of Durang's career, you can't help but think he assumes too much recognition (and identification) on the part of theatergoers to his benighted neurotics -- what he sees as an exaggerated but accurate depiction of the distorted human condition must be finessed a bit for those who think that his view is what's distorted. Theatre Three and Thurman Moss calculate laughter into their comic equation for Beyond Therapy without looking at the main variable -- namely, that audiences might find this a more satisfying night of theater if they were allowed to approach the onstage foibles with a lot less actorly interference.

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