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A CurtainUp Review
Love Therapy
"Don't seem right to me, a young woman like you living all alone, listening to all those sad people everyday, talkin' bout their problems. A person's shoulders are only so wide. It would get me down." — Madge
Alison Fraser (left) and Margot White (right)
(Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia)
Prolific Australian-based playwright Wendy Beckett is also registered in Sidney as a psychology counselor. She has used this professional benefit to bring personal insight, if not much persuasive credibility, to her play Love Therapy about an attractive, thirty-four year old divorced psychologist who has recently moved to New York.

Colleen Fitzgerald (Margot White) hopes to secure certification to practice with the (fictional) New York Psychology Council. Her apparently controversial technique, however, as well as her questionable relationship with a few patients with whom she has been entrusted, is currently under review.

Under the close and critical scrutiny of Carol (Janet Zarish), the group's supervisor, Colleen is determined to prove her theory that overt demonstrations of love and affection for patients should be an integral part of their therapy. Is she for real we ask ourselves, even as Carol begins to question the expedient practicality of Colleen's unorthodox approach? Worse yet, her treatments are not getting the kind of results the council expects.

The issues that becomes apparent soon enough are whether Colleen's own emotional issues — her mother didn't love her and a failed marriage — and her questionable ability to help three of her most difficult patients will surface and prevent her from being certified to practice psychology in New York. They are Brian (Christopher Burns), a volatile, rage-fueled business man undergoing a divorce and an unfair settlement; Steven (David Bishins), an unhappily married blue-collar worker and compulsive womanizer; and Mary (also played by Janet Zarish), a depressed, grieving mother who has just lost her husband and daughter.

Snuggled in between Colleen's progressively problematic sessions with her patients is bleached-blonde Madge (Alison Fraser), the straight-talking down-to-earth waitress with "a heart of gold," in the coffee shop of the professional building where Colleen goes daily. It's here where the friendly Madge, who sees right through Colleen's defenses, gives forth with the kind of worldly advice on life and love that Thelma Ritter used to hand out in countless movies. It's not that Colleen is apt to take Madge's advice or listen to her perspective on the value of psychology, but we are grateful for raspy-voiced Fraser's snappy delivery of her lines.

I won't spoil things by saying that things go from bad to worse for Colleen as her unprofessional personal involvement with Steven, her misreading of Brian's most basic character flaw, and her inability to foresee the obvious with Mary results in the tragically predictable. It is surprising to me that Beckett, who has written more than twenty-five plays and directed more than forty, has come up with a text that doesn't come through with anything close to a surprise, certainly not for anyone who has ever taken Psychology Course 101, .

All the fine actors, however, may be commended for taking their incredulously conceived roles seriously even if we don't. Under Evan Bergman's steadfast direction, Love Therapy is never boring at eighty five minutes, but also not as bracing as the walls of designer Jo Winiarski's uncluttered setting.

Love Therapy
By Wendy Beckett
Directed by Evan Bergman

Cast: David Bishins (Steven Jones), Christopher Burns (Brian Beatie), Alison Fraser (Madge), Margot White (Colleen Fitzgerald), Janet Zarish (Carol/Mary)
Scenic Designer: Jo Winiarski
Costume Designer: Patricia E. Doherty
Lighting Designer: Jill Nagle
Sound Designer: John Emmett O'Brien
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes no intermission
DR2 Theatre, 101 East 15th Street (212) 239 - 6200
Tickets $45.00
Performances: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM, with matinees on Saturday at 2PM and Sunday at 3PM.
From 04/20/13 Opened 04/29/13. Closing 5/35
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 04/25/13
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