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The Preacher And The Shrink
It's good to see Broadway veteran Hoty back on the boards, even in a role that doesn't offer her much of an opportunity to support her being a three time Tony nominee. It's also good to report that the play isn't quite as awful as the title.
Despite the author's last name, there isn't much that is especially good or credible in evidence. Good's potentially interesting theme (as it appears on the program cover): "How far will a father go to save his daughter?" is muddied by plot coincidences and implausible characters. What is evident is the determination and modestly successful efforts of director Steven Yuhasz to keep this turgid and talky little play moving steadfastly to its conclusion, one for which we are grateful.
One might assume from the first few moments in the opening scene in Dr. Bloomfield's office that Constance's decision to consult with a medical professional before confronting her father about what ails her is an indication of her maturity. Wrong.
As it happens Constance's meeting with Dr. Bloomfield is the first of a string of testy consultations and torturous meetings that will also and inevitably involve her stolid widower father and his married church associate Rev. David Wheeler (Mat Hostetler). It seems that Constance is determined to not only expose her father as a religious hypocrite but also destroy Rev. Wheeler's reputation with a trumped-up charge of sexual misconduct.
Brian Prather's functional set accommodates Dr. Bloomfield's office and also Dr. Hamilton's church office. Whatever tension or surprise comes as we observe how irrationally committed Constance to an insidious game plan. . . to lash out at her father whom she believes abandoned her physically and emotionally following the death of her mother from cancer. Notwithstanding her unstable, increasingly neurotic behavior, it becomes easy enough to envision her goal as a revenge-fueled pay-back.
The playwright is evidently eager to share some rather strong sentiments regarding the way people, specifically Constance, may misguidedly feel the need to empower and deploy their inner demons. Having felt deserted in her time of inconsolable grief, she now feels committed to challenging her father's integrity and his faith and belief in God.
While Constance reveals little about the failure of her marriage to a musician whom she has left in southern Florida, she is adamant about her need for personal closure. But closure for her becomes complicated as she resorts to black mail, and as the relationship between the "preacher" and the "shrink" suddenly proves to be an unexpected catalyst.
While Hoty as the atheist "shrink" listens intently to those who feel the need to seek her out, there is also an indication that she would like to rekindle a brief romance she had long ago with Constance's father. Vitlar adds a distinct edge of paranoia to her performance as the dangerously conflicted Constance. Hostetler is convincing as the well-meaning Reverend and Nicholas Urda is fine as a grateful parishioner whose prayers are answered, which is exactly how I felt when the play ended.