(first half of the review; full review available on newsstands Thursdays, and online at inlander.com; also on KPBX on Thursday at 7:35 am)
Psychopathia Sexualis (at Interplayers through May 29) is a thinking person’s sex farce. The premise has to do with a guy who can’t perform in bed unless he’s in visual contact with a pair of his father’s argyle socks. But, hey — lots of us struggle with that same neurosis. (I know I sure do.)
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: Guy has a strange sex fetish, confesses it to his pal; word leaks to the guy’s fiancée; complications ensue; your typical door-slamming bedroom farce.
Wrong. Playwright John Patrick Shanley takes the locker-room jokes in unexpected directions having to do with power struggles, gender politics and the profession of psychiatry. It’s not the kind of silliness that makes you feel as if you just lost brain cells. It’s the kind of silliness you have to earn by ruminating on what fools these mortals be, then recognizing yourself among the fools.
While director Reed McColm’s production elicits plenty of laughs, this particular Psychopathia isn’t as funny as it should be — partly due to the script, partly because of the execution. On the one hand, Shanley’s script appeals simultaneously to both brain and funny bone — asking us, in effect, to reflect and react at the same time. McColm’s cast, on the other hand, both over- and under-plays their characters’ eccentricities.
But make no mistake: With all the Freudian stuff going on here — transference, projection, slips — there’s plenty to laugh at here as Arthur confides in Howard, only to have Lucille and Ellie learn all about it. All the secrets and analysis explode into a game of trying to outsmart the shrink with the symbolic name, Dr. Block.
Two performances are standouts. As Arthur, the guy with the socks hang-up, Anderson embodies comic exasperation: He stomps the floor, does deep knee-dips, lunges crazily across the floor, shakes his fists and then his limp wrists. Then he whines, “I just need the socks!”
As Arthur’s fiancée, Caryn Hoaglund-Trevett plays a Daddy’s girl who regards wedding preparations as a good excuse for going on a rampage....
Psychopathia Sexualis delivers smart sex jokes at Interplayers, 174 S. Howard St., through May 29 on Wednesdays-Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, and Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm. Tickets: $15-$21; $10, student rush. Visit interplayers.com or call 455-PLAY.
Tammy Marshall photo for The Inlander: As Herr Freud looks on, Lucille and Ellie (Caryn Hoaglund-Trevett and Bethany Hart, right) are scandalized by the sexual hang-ups of Arthur (Dan Anderson)