'Beyond Therapy' Winds Down SCCT's Summer Season
As summer winds down, State College Community Theatre still has a hot little number up its sleeve.
The Christopher Durang comedy “Beyond Therapy” will open Sept. 6 at Mount Nittany Middle School, and fans of absurdist theatre will really enjoy this off-the-wall drama. At times romantic and at times bizarre, this show seems custom-made for the talent SCCT has to offer.
Valerie Harper (a local actress) plays 30-ish single girl Prudence, who replies to a singles ad and meets Bruce, played by Jonathan Hetler. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe their first date. “She didn’t like me, then threw water in my face,” Bruce later recalls while speaking to his therapist.
Bruce makes a lousy first impression on Prudence by immediately commenting on her breasts and following that up by mentioning his bisexuality and his live-in lover. Then he proceeds to break into tears.
If Bruce seems like he really needs the therapy, he does.
“He’s on an emotional roller coaster all the time,” Hetler said.
But his therapist of choice has bigger issues than he does. Ellysa Cahoy plays Charlotte, Bruce’s therapist. Charlotte confuses words, referring to patients as ‘porpoises.’ She uses a Snoopy dog to encourage Bruce to discuss his issues. She repeatedly mentions a string of ex-husbands and can’t seem to remember which client she has on the couch at any given moment. Cahoy doesn’t play Charlotte for laughs. She doesn’t need to because the character doesn’t realize her own absurdity. But you can’t help but laugh at Charlotte’s antics.
“She’s well-meaning, warm and supportive,” Cahoy said. “She’s cares deeply, but she’s pretty much insane.”
Prudence doesn’t escape whacko therapy sessions either. Her therapist, Stuart, has an ego the size of Manhattan and machismo to match. Played with an almost elegant condescension by Eric Lindquist, Stuart tries to excuse his non-stop attempts at seduction by claiming, “I like women. Most men don’t.”
Rounding out the cast, veteran SCCT actor Michael Tews plays Bob, Bruce’s lover. Bob, of course, doesn’t take kindly to Prudence, who comes to accept Bruce as a love interest and perhaps even marriage material.
“He’s hostile,” said Tews, “but he also tries to win her over. He wants to convince her that Bruce is crazy.”
As the action progresses, all the characters seem crazy. And as Charlotte says, “If you take psychological suffering in the right frame of mind, you can find humor in it.”
Director David Williams, in his first show with SCCT, knows how to interact with characters he describes as “outlandish, but real.” A relic from the 1980s, “Beyond Therapy” uses the decade’s self-absorption for comedy.
“It’s cutting-edge, still relevant, with a lot to offer a contemporary audience,” Williams concluded.
He also stresses that this show has strong language and adult situations. But it does have a fun cast -- actors who hope to present their characters as real and human as opposed to caricatures.
The comedy will run two weekends, with 8 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturdays.
IF YOU GO
What: “Beyond Therapy”
Where: State College Community Theatre, Mount Nittany Middle School
When: 8 p.m., Sept. 6, 13; 2 and 8 p.m., Sept. 7 and 14
Click HERE for more information or to buy tickets online.