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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
John Patrick Shanley 's new play Psychopalia Sexualis--its title a crafty spin on Kraft- Ebbing-- will undoubtedly be one of the Manhattan Theater Club's most popular plays of the season. Edward Herrmann has a wonderful time playing a Shrink from Hell, again "kraftily" named. And so will audiences who come to watch Dr. Block confiscate his patients favorite objects of obsession and shred their egos like so many unnecessary documents.
What's more, when the laughing is over, they may even find themselves leaving the theater thinking about some of the issues about love, friendship and the help and harm aspects of psychiatry that bubble beneath. this stew of neuroses. Despite the deeper questions, this is a nice dessert more than a stick-to-the ribs meal. If Shanley were so inclined, he could easily turn Dr. Block into a prime time favorite to challenge the Doctors Fraser.
To tell you a little about what the play is about, without spoiling the punch lines and the constant twists and turns in Block's blockbuster rampage through his victims' psyches, here's the basic situation: When Block takes away the cause of Arthur's, (Andrew McCarthy), sexual problem--his father's argyle sock--the distraught painter seeks solace from his more debonair friend Howard, (Daniel Gerroll). Howard's wife Ellie, (Margaret Colin), and Arthur's Texas fiancee Lucille (Park Overall) help to confuse and confound the sexual farrago. Will Arthur and Lucille live happily and sexually compatibly ever after? Will Howard get his comeuppance? Coul Dr. Mean become a new chip off the old Block? The only clue as to how it all turns out that I'm going to give you is that Shanley wrote the screen play for Moon Struck.
While Shanley's script is fat with fast and snappy lines, the success of the total enterprise owes much to the supporting cast's well-timed performances and Daniel Sullivan's steady direction. Derek McLane's set, and Jane Greenwood's costumes are also commendable. But the centerpiece of it all is Edward Herrman who is a very funny man indeed.
This is the third Shanley play I've seen and it's the best of the lot. Though Shanley did tickle my funny bone and stirred my respect for his ability to get so many laughs out of his romp across a basically familiar landscape. He's not as brilliant as Woody Allen often is, or as Nichols and May always were. . . but then who writing comedy for today's theater is?
Psychopathia Sexualis, opened 2/26/97 at Manhattan Theatre Club and had 33 previews and 62 post-opening performances which came to an end 4/20/97.