It is hard to understand why the Source Theatre has chosen to revive "Beyond Therapy" only two years after Arena Stage did such a scintillating job with the same play.
The Source has produced a creditable version of Christopher Durang's modern comedy. But compared to the earlier production, it's the difference between a good hamburger and dinner at Jean Louis.
Durang lampoons both psycho-therapy and contemporary dating habits, matching, via a personal advertisement, Prudence, a thirtyish writer for People magazine, and Bruce, a bisexual attorney. In scenes faintly reminiscent of a "Doonesbury" cartoon, they meet and have the proverbial Disaster Date. She is appalled at his revelation that he has been living for a year with a man, and his tendency to prove how open and vulnerable he is by periodically bursting into tears. He thinks her narrow-minded and picky.
Needless to say they both have therapists, each a charlatan in his or her own way. Prudence has been "treated" by a man who seduced her and continues to show an abnormal interest in her sex life. Bruce's doctor is a wacky woman who can't remember what she's trying to say, let alone who her patient is, and keeps a stuffed Snoopy close at all times. Durang hammers home, with farcical and often hilarious blows, not just the absurdity of some therapies, but the notion that revealing all can be as noncommunicative as revealing nothing.
But "Beyond Therapy" is more than a satire of psycho-babble. It is also a romantic comedy in which boy and girl meet and, despite every conceivable reason -- including logic -- get together. And the central failing of this production is the lack of chemistry -- sexual or otherwise -- between the two leads. If Bruce is simply a wimp, as Ritchie Porter plays him, then the idea of these two making music together is completely implausible. As Prudence, Leslie Byrne has some appeal, but has been costumed and coifed so drably that she, too, has little sexual impact. Together they make the least exciting couple since Ozzie and Harriet.
Joan Kelley's almost clown-likeendcol portrayal of the female therapist is appropriately broad and her simple- minded opacity provides some of the evening's funniest moments. Scott Gilmore, as Bruce's rejected lover, is fairly convincing, but has yet to learn to control his own amusement at the goings-on. Bill McKenney, as the other psychiatrist, manages to be farcical without being funny.
Phil Setren has orchestrated the evening with some deftness, but as the play takes off into the zanier levels of absurdity, he loses control and the farce begins to disintegrate.
Beyond Therapy, by Christopher Durang, directed by Phil Setren, set by Rudy Garza, lighting by Jennifer Garrett, costumes by Susan Davis, sound by Brady Mittelman, with Ritchie Porter, Leslie Byrne, Bill McKenney, Joan Kelley, Scott Gilmore, Brian E. Desmond. At the Warehouse Rep through Feb. 15.