Rhonda is in Therapy

Rhonda is in Therapy
By Bridgette Burton. Hoy Polloy and Baggage Productions. Director: Wayne Pearn. Dramaturge: Julian Meyrick. Set and costume design: Kat Chan. Lighting design: Richard Vabre. Sound design: Tim Bright. fortyfiveownstairs (Vic). 7 – 23 September, 2012.

Rhonda is in Therapy is a lively, insightful and satisfying play about the lengths gone to, by a young wife and mother, to remain in the limbo of denial, after experiencing a life-changing trauma that places her in the face of overwhelming grief.

It explores the cracked reality of Rhonda, a teaching professor of Chemical Engineering.  We watch her deal with her grief inspired, outrageous sexually exploitative behavior - through Therapy.  This challenging behavior is enacted as it is discussed to hilarious affect at times.

A multi layered work, it is framed as a progressive and successful journey through Therapy - from piquant self-delusion to the contrasting self-empowering, yet somewhat dreary, acceptance of day-to-day reality.  And as such, it is cleverly and skillfully penned, with a number of surprising and fascinating reveals.

Writer Bridgette Burton displays quite some insight. There is a wicked sense, in this work, that although socially inconvenient and often personally destructive - extravagant dissociative delusions can have a fabulous exciting and invigorating edge.

Almost everything about this production is outstanding; even the very trite title Rhonda is in Therapy is actually perfect.  The direction by Wayne Pearn seamlessly incorporates some disjointed and abstract scenes with competence and grace, smoothly welding the whole together.  Sound by Tim Bright is used to signal (psychological) atmosphere to good effect.

Pearn truly brings out the best in his actors.  As Lief, Rhonda’s longsuffering husband, a generous kind man with a grounded sense of self, Ben Grant is just right physically.  He clearly expresses all the love, perseverance and dedication required to make perfect sense of this role.  Jamison Caldwell plays the student as sensitive and caring - irresistible ‘eye candy’.  And as the therapist Kelly Nash very naturally conveys a perceptive clinical interest in her patient and cleverly transmits the intense and slightly sickening atmosphere of the Psychiatrist’s consulting room.  Louise Crawford just shines as Rhonda.

If I were rating this production it would get four and a half out of five stars.  And where did that half a star go?  Well, it is actually a little too long; the last fifteen or so minutes drag a little.  And then there is what seemed to be an irrelevant red herring of the name of Rhonda’s lover being the same as that as one of her children.  Maybe this idea has a basis in some interesting psychoanalytic theory but just feels awkward and unnecessary in the context of the story.  For me these small issues pale into insignificance in light of a very entertaining and satisfying whole. 

Really Good Theatre!

Suzanne Sandow 

Images: Louise  Crawford and Ben Grant; Kelly Nash & Louise  Crawford. Photographer: Fred Kroh

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