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The Theatreguide.London Review

Cock Tavern Theatre     Summer 2010

Charlotte Eilenberg's new 70-minute play is part mystery, part melodrama, part satire and part serious dissection of the methods and morality of psychoanalysis.

Depending on your tastes, you're likely to find one of those strands more engrossing than the others. But whichever you choose to focus on, the rest will be interesting and entertaining enough to keep you happy.

An analyst welcomes a new patient trying to cope with the emotional fallout of her broken marriage, though we might notice that she is as interested in his methods as in anything they uncover.

Inevitably, she turns out to be not quite what she seems, and when she pulls a gun on him she forces a reversal of roles, putting him on the couch to explore his psyche and how it affects his professional behaviour.

There are a few more twists and surprises to the plot, along with some red herrings, and you may well find this who's-doing-what-to-whom-and-why story by itself enough to satisfy you.

I found it a more-than-adequate hook on which to hang the aspect of the play that interested me more - the question of whether the infamous and frustrating noncommittal silence of analysts is better or worse than their actually giving opinions or advice.

(There's also a comic strand worth mentioning, not just in the byplay between the two characters - the shrink has just published a book, and thoughts of reviews or opportunities to promote it are likely to distract him at the most inappropriate moments.)

As the mercurial patient, Amanda Ryan has the flashier role, and she clearly has fun switching moods and identities repeatedly. Jack Klaff is by instinct a broad actor, but he gives a solidly subdued performance here, anchoring the play in a sense of reality that is essential for it (and some of its surprises) to work.

If I complain that director Julian Birkett devotes more attention to the external melodrama than to the presentation of the play's ideas, I'm just exposing my own prejudice as to what I would have liked more of - you may very well find this imbalance to be exactly what makes the play work.

Gerald Berkowitz

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