Theater review by Jenna Scherer. DR2 Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Wendy Beckett. Dir. Evan Bergman. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.
Much like a marriage on the rocks, there’s as much worth keeping in Wendy Beckett’s new play as there is worth dumping. Chronicling the efforts of a naively idealistic marriage-counselor-in-training, Love Therapy starts out plodding, picks up the pace and then abruptly ends.
The appropriately wide-eyed Margot White stars as Colleen, who approaches her therapy practice as though cartoon sparrows were flying around her head. Trusting in the healing power of love (seriously), she underreacts to obvious warning signs in her patients: Both the divorce-embroiled husband with a history of violence (Christopher Burns) and the suicidially depressed widow (Janet Zarish) are treated with soothing words and firm squeezes on the shoulder. The line between treater and treated blurs even more when Colleen starts to have feelings for a gruffly charming womanizer (David Bishins) whose marriage she’s supposed to be repairing. Talk about transference.
Bizarrely, this couples counselor never works with any couples, which would have helped break up Beckett’s string of almost entirely two-person scenes. When the characters carom off each other in ways we wouldn’t expect, it can be electric, but it doesn’t happen enough.
The design and direction in Evan Bergman’s production—sudden transitions, a blandly futuristic set, piped-in elevator-techno—don’t match the material. Still, there are strong performances here, particularly from Bishins as the Louis C.K.–esque existential rogue and Alison Fraser as a sassy Irish waitress. As for poor Colleen, she only really becomes interesting in her disintegration, which comes too late in the play; things fall apart, but we never get to see what emerges from the rubble.—Jenna Scherer