Christopher Durang


Full Length Plays

Beyond Therapy

 

Beyond Therapy was presented on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City in April, 1982.  Produced by Warner Theatre Productions/Claire Nichtern and FDM Productions/Francois de Menil and Harris Maslansky.  Directed by John Madden, scenery by Andrew Jackness, costumes by Jennifer von Mayrhauser, lighting by Paul Gallo, music coordinator Jack Feldman.  Standbys: James Eckhouse, Ellen Parker, James Widdoes.  Cast was:

Bruce    ...............................  John Lithgow
Prudence    ...............................  Dianne Wiest
Dr. Stuart Framingham  ...............................  Peter Michael Goetz
Mrs. Charlotte Wallace  ...............................  Kate McGregor-Stewart 
Bob  ...............................  Jack Gilpin
Andrew  ...............................  David (Hyde) Pierce

Prior to Broadway  

Beyond Therapy premiered off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre in New York City on January 1, 1981.  T. Edward Hambleton, Managing Director; Steven Robman, Artistic Director.  Directed by Jerry Zaks, scenery by Karen Schultz, costumes by Jennifer von Mayrhauser, lighting by Richard Nelson, sound by David Rapkin. The cast was:

Bruce  ...........................  Stephen Collins


McGregor-Stewart, Collins, Weaver, Borelli

Prudence ...........................  Sigourney Weaver
 Stuart ...........................  Jim Borelli 
 Charlotte ...........................  Kate McGregor-Stewart
Bob ...........................  Jack Gilpin
Andrew ...........................  Conan McCarty
Paul* ...........................  Nick Stannard

* the part of Paul, a former boyfriend of Prudence’s, 
was written out in the subsequent version

 

Beyond Therapy is one of Durang’s most popular and frequently performed plays.  It’s also one of his sunnier comedies. 

David Pierce edited.jpg (12136 bytes)The off-Broadway production was directed by Jerry Zaks, whom Durang went on to work with successfully several more times.  The Broadway production was directed by John Madden (who later directed the film Shakespeare in Love).  The casts of both productions were delightful.  In the Broadway cast, in his first Equity job, was David Hyde Pierce, playing the small but fun part of Andrew.

 

Some Reviews Included:

Christopher Durang has the wit, the high, rebellious spirits, and the rage of the born satirist. He is also one of the funniest and most original playwrights at work.  His "Beyond Therapy" could be considered his "Alice in Wonderland" with the stunning Sigourney Weaver at large in a world run by psychiatrists … this whirligig of a show…trips merrily along.” 
    
– Edith Oliver, New Yorker

One of the funniest plays I’ve seen in years
     – Rex Reed, New York Daily News

The jokes [about psychiatrists] have never stopped, but rarely have they been as funny as they are in Christopher Durang’s newest comedy, which opened on Broadway last week.  Screwball and scatty, with as much owed to the Marx Brothers as to the Viennese brethern, "Beyond Therapy" offers the best therapy of all: guaranteed laughter.  Durang’s plot, which has more bounces than a pinball game, goes from the unexpected to the unpredicted… providing two hours of hilarious surprises.  John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest are both funny and touching as the star-crossed lovers.
    
 – Gerald Clarke, Time Magazine


“[Durang] is a serious young writer who can’t help thinking comically.  "Beyond Therapy"…[is] zany in a particularly intelligent way…wickedly funny, terribly slanted, and essentially true.  
    
– Dan Sullivan, LA Times

 

The Story:

Bruce and Prudence meet through a personals ad, but their date doesn’t go so well.  He expresses emotions and likes to cry.  Prudence doesn’t think men should cry “unless something falls on them.” He has a male lover.  “I’m bisexual,” he tells her.  She’s not sure; they talk at cross purposes some more, and then end up throwing water in each others’ faces.

We then see them talk about their meeting with their respective psychiatrists.  Hers is a macho pig who once seduced her and keeps talking about his prowess.  He refuses to say much, but occasionally bursts into inappropriate anger.  His is a warm, encouraging woman who embraces her patients, talks through her Snoopy doll and believes in expressing all feelings no matter what.  She encourages Bruce to cry, and on hearing he threw water at Prudence she cries out “Good for you! Ruff, ruff, ruff!”  The “ruff ruff” is her barking for Snoopy.

Somehow Bruce and Prudence meet a second time, surprisingly overcome their initial loathing, and start to maybe like one another.  But then she has to meet the male lover Bob; and listen to Bob’s crazy mother on the phone.  And the whole thing comes to a chaotic end in a mad restaurant scene where screaming and shootings take place, and Bruce and Prudence almost get together, but don’t quite. They do like one another though, and end by humming softly together their favorite song, Someone to Watch Over Me.


Even though Bruce and Prudence don’t hook up, they do end up liking one another; and Beyond Therapy usually ends up being an audience pleaser. 

In 2002 Fynsworth Alley put a CD recording of the play starring David Hyde Pierce, now in the lead role of Bruce, and talented Catherine O’Hara as Prudence. Kate McGregor-Stewart, who was adored by audiences in both New York productions, is on the CD, recreating her role of Mrs. Wallace. link to Fynsworth Alley

Beyond Therapy has many pop culture references from the early 1980s.  Durang has often been asked to try to update the play, but has come to believe it is best presented as a period piece of the 1980s.  For more discussion on this topic, see Essay on Updating. 

Cast size: 2 women, 4 men
Rights: Samuel French


photos by Martha Swope

Pierce, Goetz, McGregor-Stewart, Gilpin, Lithgow, Wiest

Lithgow & Wiest  Lithgow, Wiest & Gilpin 

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