NEW YORK — "I'm gonna need therapy to get over this therapy," one character remarks in exasperation to another, near the end of Frank Strausser's uneven new comedy "Psycho Therapy."
The farcical look at couples counseling in upscale Beverly Hills is making its American premiere off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.
Forty-something and trying to hold on to her current boyfriend, ex-model-turned-art-dealer Lily (Angelica Page) shows up (unhappily alone) for her first session with perky relationship therapist Nancy Winston (a comically uptight portrayal by Jan Leslie Harding.)
Lily's sexy ex-boyfriend Dorian, (a seductively panther-like Jeffrey Carlson) unexpectedly arrives and pretends to be her current boyfriend Philip. Lily hooks up with Dorian, while professing she wanted marriage and a baby with Philip. More confusion ensues when Philip (played as suave, if slightly stuffy, by Laurence Lau) proposes unsuccessfully to Lily, and then appears at the therapist's office while Lily and Dorian are there. Gamely, Nancy attempts to counsel all three of them at once, with predictably poor results.
Page is physically expressive and appealing as Lily, although she overdoes the mugging and petulance at times. The show has a lot of funny lines, but more insight into the characters would be helpful. Lily's peevish behavior — especially when Philip proposes marriage and she says it's the wrong day of the week for a proposal — doesn't ring true.
The production could also be improved by firmer direction and tightening. The staging is erratic and there's too much running around, with characters repeatedly storming on- and offstage. The original director, Alex Lippard, is no longer with the show, which caused a week's delay in the opening. According to a press release, "an uncredited creative consultant was brought in to finish the production and prepare it for opening."
The play has a stylish look, thanks to Michael V. Moore's serenely tasteful set, and the actors do their best with what they've been given, especially Harding, but their characters need more genuine emotional complexity.