Review: If you like zany comedy, you'll love 'Beyond Therapy'

Review: If you like zany comedy, you’ll love ‘Beyond Therapy’

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BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

EU Jacksonville

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened the hilarious comedy/farce “Beyond Therapy” in the Koger-Gamache Studio Theatre on Aug. 7.

This funny, funny show was written by Christopher Durang in 1982 — his first play of many comedies with absurdist themes. Durang is back in vogue at age 66. His 2013 play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” was awarded the Tony for Best Play and has been staged throughout the country over the past two years.

A simple plot summary would go like this: Durang’s story is about neurotic singles and their even more neurotic therapists. Limelight’s production is one of the best comedies we have seen this season. Be forewarned, it contains adult language and sexual situations, as you would expect in a Durang play.

Marc Anthony Toro is making his community theater debut as Bruce, a handsome young man, who is somewhat sexually conflicted. He is bisexual and lives with his current boyfriend, and he wants to marry and have children. As the play opens, Bruce is waiting in an Italian restaurant to meet a woman he connected with using a newspaper classified ad, a strategy encouraged by his hilarious ditsy doodle therapist Charlotte, brilliantly played by Jessica Ferris.

Bruce’s blind date is Prudence (Flagler College senior Caroline Brady), who is afraid of everything, but has decided to take a chance of meeting someone compatible by responding to Bruce’s invitation. Like Bruce, she also has a therapist, Stuart, played by Limelight newcomer Jim Cadigan. Stuart is a rather unethical mental health practitioner, as he has previously had an affair with Prudence. He hopes he can persuade her to resume the affair, and opposes her dating others.

After a couple of meetings in the restaurant, Bruce invites Prudence to his apartment where she meets boyfriend Bob (James Desmond), who is something else again. He is a big man (think NFL lineman big), who wears black leather gloves and clothing. The only thing missing is a motorcycle. He has a large red heart tattooed on his shoulder, some awesome mutton chop sideburns and an unseen mother, who calls him frequently on the phone to offer unsolicited intrusive advice. And he is very unhappy about the prospect of his relationship with Bruce being disrupted by Prudence.

The final character in this gaggle of neurotics making their way through complicated situations is Alex Metrakos as Andrew the waiter, who makes a wonderful cameo appearance in Act Two. He owns a motorcycle and immediately bonds with Bob.

Well, we probably shouldn’t tell, but there is a happy ending, and how things get sorted out makes for a wild and wooly second act.

Director Joe Kemper is making his directing debut at Limelight. He has recently appeared there in “Hello Dolly.” With a masters degree in acting from UCF in Orlando, he knows the business. He is starting his second year as drama teacher/theater director at Ponte Vedra High School. Kemper has done an exemplary bit of directing with this play, starting with a cast that could not be better. Not only do the actors have a complete grasp of their characters, they also project well and are convincing with their individual foibles.

This is a period piece set in the late ‘70s, and Kemp wisely made no attempt to update it. As a result, you will hear some famous people of those times mentioned briefly, and may not recognize their names. They include David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Cary Grant (film star) and Dyan Cannon (an actress briefly married to Grant).

Set Designer Carl Liberatore deserves a round of applause for the remarkable set. The first act has six scene changes in the course of just over an hour. We go to and from a restaurant, to two different offices and to an apartment. The changes are swift and smooth thanks to Stage Manager Amanda Arany and her Assistant Stage Manager Izabella Noelle Unice. Costume Designer Lorraine Rokovitz’s choices were spot-on for the period and she certainly kept Prudence busy changing clothes for each scene.

We hope that this production of “Beyond Therapy” will start a revival of Durang’s other plays, which include “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You,” “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and “Betty’s Summer Vacation.”

If you like zany comedy, you will love “Beyond Therapy.” The play will be on stage until Aug. 30. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Limelight Theatre is located on 11 Old Mission Ave. in Downtown St. Augustine and has its own free parking lot. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors age 62 and older and $20 for students and military. For tickets, call the box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or purchase online at limelight-theatre.org.

Of note: Coming in September at Limelight will be “Ring of Fire,” a musical featuring 38 songs of Johnny Cash.