BWW Reviews: Citilites' Production of PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS

Playwright John Patrick Shanley explores the "feminization" of the male of the species with his work Psychopathia Sexualis (google Krafft-Ebbing for a more detailed explanation of the historical and ground-breaking, but essentially flawed, text that the title is copped from, but bears no resemblance toward), focusing on a pair of men who wouldn't seem out of place in some Larry David scenario, acting much like the fully grown, but emotionally immature males who dominate his output. As someone who actually likes watching these kind of social misfits blather endlessly and inanely, I was captivated by Shanley's clever script, and the current production of this play by Citilites is a well-acted and smartly directed presentation that neatly capitalizes on the humorous situations that arise as the sexes appear to change places.

Arthur is an unsuccessful and neurotic artist, on the verge of being wed, when he makes an appeal to the only friend he has, Howard. Howard is, by way of contrast, an upwardly mobile type who may be only half-British, but seems insistent upon behaving as though he somehow just arrived from London. Arthur innocently asks Howard if he'll be his best man, and of course, Howard accepts. Then things get sticky as Arthur decides to tell Howard that he has a particular fetish that requires his assistance. Arthur is in therapy, and his therapist, Dr. Block, has purloined a pair of socks that are vital to his ability to function sexually. He then asks Howard if he'll see his shrink so he can retrieve his precious argyles. Though they're already an unlikely pair, their rapport is put to the test by Arthur's request.

That's the setup, but the play really picks up steam when Howard visits Dr. Block and ends up undergoing a bit of analysis in the process. And, then there's the women, Ellie and Lucille, who seem to be the backbone of both of these relationships. All of this comes together in the second act, which is faster and funnier than anything that's been previously witnessed, even though you really need the setup in order to get to the punchline.

Tom Lehmann is a bundle of nervous energy as Arthur, and his admissions come painfully as he explains his situation to Howard. Stephen Peirick's forced British accent is nearly impossible to take at first, until you realize how hopelessly affected it is, and how perfect a fit it is for his character's enormous ego. Lehmann and Peirick work well together, and manage to make this most unlikely of friendships believable.

Sarah Cannon is terrific as Ellie, and even though she's out of the picture until the second act, after an initial cameo, she makes a vivid impression. Susan Arnold Marks is exceptionally amusing as Lucille, Arthur's bride-to-be. Marks deftly adopts a Texas twang that suits her character's locale, as well as her deep appreciation of "The Duke". Cannon sums it up best as Ellie when she suggests that Lucille is playing John Wayne to Arthur's Maureen O'Hara, just like The Quiet Man, and the role reversal is nearly complete. Mike Juncal rounds out the cast in nice fashion as the fiendishly clever Dr. Block, who may or may not be as "evil" as Arthur implies. Juncal radiates an energy and intensity in the part that really sparks the show.

Director Marsha Hollander Park adroitly guides this cast, and though there are a few lines here and there that deserve a bit more punctuation, the laughs are plentiful. Tim Poetner's scenic design is effectively simple and functional, and the use of a large canvas to project images on works well to set the mood of each scene. Steven Miller's lighting is also nicely realized, and Russel Betlach's costumes are good fits for the characters.

Psychopathia Sexaulis continues through August 22, 2010.

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From This Author Chris Gibson