Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Beyond Therapy centers on the lives of Bruce (Evan Sokol), a bisexual man, and Prudence (Megan Luis), a heterosexual woman, who meet through a newspaper dating service. (This was before the internet, folks.) Both are panicky and overstrained with expectation, and the date quickly goes wrong. We can see why as soon as we meet their therapists, Dr. Framingham (Josh Klein) and Mrs. Wallace (Meira Perelstein).
Prudence is a patient of Dr. Framingham, a soothing seducer who thinks he is Casanova and every woman is in love with him. Bruce's therapist is Mrs. Wallace, a hare-brained New Age guru-wannabe who has lost all sense of therapy. Bruce has a roommate named Bob (Javon Gray) who is carrying on with Bruce also. There are more surprises in store that I won't reveal, but primary relationships progress, devolve, crash and connect to a wild and wonderful conclusion. Beyond Therapy is loose structured, more of series of strung-together vignettes. Some are very funny and some just mildly amusing.
Matt Shelton has assembled a cast of first rate actors to overact in this production. Evan Sokol gives a vivid performance as an emotional man subject to crying spells. Sokol does an effective job communicating his character's irrational behavior. Megan Luis gives a pitch perfect performance as Prudence, conveying a burning anxiety. Josh Klein is remarkably pitiable as Prudence's oversexed shrink. Meira Perelstein is hilarious as Bruce's shrink; she absolutely shines in the role. Javon Grey almost steals the show as Bob, Bruce's roommate. He plays it straight without ludicrous movements. Benjamin Tam and Vincent Academia are effective in their small roles.
Matt Shelton's direction is crisp and strong, in sync with his actors. Adam Stowers and Madi Worthington's set design on the intimate stage in various crazy colors is in tune with the absurd nature of the plot.
Beyond Therapy runs through April 1, 2017, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained online at sheltontheater.org. Coming up next in their main theatre is Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge opening on March 16 and running through May 20.