Client confidentiality just went out the window at Theatre West. Dr. Patricia Cataldo is a psychotherapist who has a very special clientele: They’re all celebrity couples who want to change the course of their lives – and fates – by making a few personal tweaks here and there. And they’re all linked by one very famous name – Shakespeare.
Brandon Foxworth and Mary Elisabeth Somers – Photo by Garry Kluger
CLASSIC COUPLES COUNSELING explores the very secret lives of some of Shakespeare’s best known couples – folks like Othello (Brandon Foxworth) and Desdemona (Mary Elisabeth Somers), Romeo (Cecil Jennings) and Juliet (Amelia Vargas), Macbeth (Joe Nassi) and his Lady (Barbara Mallory), Hamlet (Rick Simone-Friedland) and Ophelia (Deanna Gandy), and Kate (Anna Leyden) and Petruchio (Bill Sehres). If only Shakespeare had known Dr. Cataldo (Constance Mellors) when he authored his famous plays, things might have worked out very differently for at least four of these five pairs. Maybe even a few happy endings.
But playwright Lloyd J. Schwartz decided to change all that and offer five couples the chance of a lifetime – an offer they couldn’t refuse – to tinker with Shakespeare’s tales and perhaps alter a few tragic endings. And now these couples will have the opportunity to share their deepest fears hopes, and dreams with their partners in a safe and secure setting monitored by a caring, compassionate psychologist. At least that was the plan. But soon all mayhem breaks loose as these zany and often plain outlandish lovers are called upon to do the impossible – listen to their spouses with gentle concern. As all hell breaks loose, it soon turns out that Dr. Cataldo is definitely weird – and probably a little crazy herself – as she attempts to herd this bunch of wild-eyed cats into the barn.
CLASSIC COUPLES COUNSELING is a fascinating concept with real potential to morph into a brilliant satire or a genuine comic romp. There are, however, major audience requirements. First and foremost, they must have a working knowledge of Shakespeare in order to appreciate some of the clever lines. Second, they must be very fast on their feet, since lines tumble out indiscriminately and so quickly that there isn’t a moment to digest what’s going on and appreciate the finer points of the writing. They must also be very tolerant of high volume, as a good part of the play is uber-loud and beyond frenetic. The play runs approximately 90 minutes without an intermission – and would probably benefit from adding 10 minutes to the total in order to give the audience – and maybe even the actors – some breathing room. This reviewer was left with a strong desire to read the script in order to see what she missed in the 90-minute dash. Nonetheless, the play remains an interesting approach to Shakespeare.
CLASSIC COUPLES COUNSELING runs through May 8, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, CA 90068. Tickets are $40 (students/seniors/military $30). For information and reservations, call 323-851-7977 or go online.
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