In a quaint cabaret-style room upstairs from Triad Stage’s mainstage theater, the lights went up on two characters lip-locked in a fit of farcical passion, fairly indicative of how the rest of Reverse Psychology would unfold. The characters were Dr. Leonard Silver, a psychiatrist, and Eleanor, a psych patient, though not of Dr. Silver. Both reveal that they are married, and soon their affair is mirrored by an affair of their spouses. In the following scene we meet Freddie, flamboyant artist and husband to Eleanor, and Dr. Karen Gold, a psychiatrist. After seducing Dr. Gold in an art museum, Freddie lures her into an affair and the hilarity begins.
In this hilarious farce, playwright Charles Ludlam demonstrates mastery of the genre and how farce is often reflected in our own lives. Drawing on subject matters of love, insanity, and abstract art, Ludlam explicates how each can be found in another with pure, no-strings-attached comedy.
Director Jonathan Bohun Brady led his cast of four headlong into the hysteria, and they delivered fearlessly. Lee Spencer, as Dr. Leonard Silver, walked the thin line between sane and insane like an acrobat. His under two-minute depiction of the stages of grief in a break up had the audience rolling in the aisles. Josephine Hall played Dr. Karen Gold with such grace in her moments of clarity that her melodramatic outbursts were often a surprise. Emily Mark was erratic, adorable, and fearless as Eleanor and Jim French is probably more than just a pretty face, but who could tell? He was in his underwear so much as Freddie, it was difficult to pay attention to the dialogue. All in all, the cast had a firm grasp on the over the top style and too much was never enough.
The production design did well to aid the humor of the piece, although the set left something to be desired. While Director Brady did well to stage Act I to clearly distinguish changes in time and space, Amanda Warriner’s uniformly painted backdrop did not do anything to help delineate these spaces. Although the abstract paint job reflected the themes and the chaos of the show, the uniformity served better in Act II, which played out in one location. Jonathan Fredette’s sound design subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, reinforced the interactions on stage. Heather Jessup’s costumes seemed to take into consideration the comfort of the actors, even though everyone was in their underwear at some point. Michael Gurdo’s lights emphasized all the appropriate punch lines and differentiated between the reality of the play and the occasional daydreamings of the characters.
Over all, the cast and crew of Reverse Psychology took the farce in stride and ran. If the March 14th preview is indicative of the rest of their run, Triad Stage’s refreshingly lighthearted comedy is well worth the price of a ticket.
Reverse Psychology continues through March 30. For more information on this production, please view the sidebar.