<Psych, a CurtainUp review CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review

It is a universal truth that coldness and bitchoness is stronger than kindness --- Molly
Enid Graham & Heather Goldenhersh
Enid Graham & Heather Goldenhersh
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
There are endless variations on sensible law school graduate Molly's (Enid Graham) observations on the the vulnerability of the always kind and compassionate in a dog-eat-dog world. Molly, who is both narrator and key player in Psych, the comedy-thriller being given its world premiere by Playwrights Horizon, wants to save her best friend Sunny (Heather Goldenhersh as the cynosure of the story) from the perils of being too open.

When we first meet Sunny she is dressed in black leather and mesh stockings. The setting is an S&M parlor called Pandora's Box where she works as a dominatrix to earn the money to pay for her doctorall program in clinical psychology. Goldenhersh's metaphorically named Sunny is adorable and pert but a most unlikely mental health care professional, and an even more unlikely modern day Billy Budd. Yet, she proves an inspired choice to satirize the psychological establishment. For sure, her treatment of the customers who pay to be tied up and spanked proves to be far more compassionate and rational than the duplicitous behavior of her grad school advisers and a fellow student. As a matter of fact, Sunny's friendliness and openness have boomeranged before, with acts of kindness that yielded no quid pro quo.

Graduate school turns out to be the latest and most horrific case of misplaced trust, driving Sunny into despair bordering on paranoia. When Molly, who has come to New York to take her NYState bar exams, becomes Sunny's apartment mate, she also serves as a sympathetic sounding board for her problems.

Psych is not only a send-up of a particular segment of the professional world but a more general exploration of a society in which "coldness and bitchiness" win out over kindness. As tautly directed and stylishly staged by Jim Simpson of the downtown Flea Theater, the combination of comedy and psychological thriller works even though the presentation-style opening is weak and the details of plot and character have almost as many credibility gaps as those dominatrix mesh stockings have holes — notably the weak foundation for the hostilities Sunny encounters.

Graham as the calm and reasonable Molly whose still waters run somewhat unconvincingly deep) and Goldenhersh as the more emotionally volatile Sunny play off each other most effectively. The four other actors are smartly cast in multiple role that slyly emphasize the links between who is and who is not in control.

Marissa Copeland's roles vary from a voluptuously sullen dominatrix in a nurse's outfit to the guarded head of the psychology department. Katie Kreisler also has three parts, including that of yet another but much more fragile dominatrix as well as a troubled and troublesome fellow student of Sunny's. Danny Burstein takes on four characters, the most amusing as a client of the S&M parlor. Damian Young stands out as the smarmy psychologist whom Sunny must please, first to get accepted into the graduate program and then to stay in. His small second role is Smith's way of meting out poetic justice.

Claudia Brown's costumes are full of clever psychological touches. Kyle Chepulis keeps the stage sparsely furnished, the main set piece being a curved opaque panel of doors which open and close as the ringing of a gong signals the end of each scene — and yet another betrayal.

Scott Myers' music and sound heighten the tension that mounts as Sunny, tries to hang on to her tenuous standing in the doctoral program by apparently taking a page out of the writings of the British anti-psychological establishment guru R.D. Laing; for example: "They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game." (Joseph Heller's Catch 22 also comes to mind).

Despite the plot holes and a much needed blue pencil to cut the hour and forty minutes by at least ten minutes, Psych confirms Evan Smith as an interesting and always adventurous playwright who is not afraid to take risks. The three Smith plays I've now seen, are all different in period, genre and style. His first, Uneasy Chair (also produced by Playwrights Horizon), is my favorite, but each is a showcase for an original voice.

Playbill theater historian Louis Botto recently wrote a piece about famous last lines in plays. If he ever does a follow-up, he should include "Time's Up", the super apt last line of Psych. As for Mr. Smith's next play, I'm eager to see where his curiosity and wit will take him next.

Other plays by Evan Smith
The Uneasy Chair

Written by Evan Smith
Directed by Jim Simpson

Cast (alphabetical order) Danny Burstein (Bill, Michael, Gar and Advocate), Marissa Copeland (Dominique, Jana, Barbara Stafford and Therapist), Heather Goldenhersh (Sunny Goldfarb), Enid Graham (Molly Salter), Katie Kreisler (Desiree, Karen and Jennifer) and Damian Young (Todd Cox and Profound Psychotic)
Set Design: Kyle Chapulis
Costume Design: Claudia Brown
Lighting Design: Frances Aaronson
Original Music and Sound Design: Scott Myers
Running Time: 1 hour and forty minutes, without intermission
Playwrights Horizon Production at Peter Norton Space
555 W. 42nd St. (10th/11th Avs) 212/279-4200 11/24/01-12/30/01; opening 12/16/01

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based
Metaphors Dictionary Cover
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.


The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2001, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com