April 23, 2004





Let's analyze the analysts


"I couldn't help deconstructing him," says one therapist to another in "The Family Room," Aron Eli Coleite's searching new play about the psychiatric profession and its discontents.


The therapist is talking about a boyfriend she dumped, but she could be speaking for all five shrinks depicted in Coleite's round-robin orgy of analysis. None of these messed-up docs can resist applying their training to their own nearest and dearest, though this learned perspective makes them scarcely more able, and in some ways far less equipped, to handle the ups and downs of human relations.


Rebellious teen David (Jonny Vincent) thinks he sees through all this flim-flam: Both his father (Gary Carter) and his mother (D.J. Harner) are therapists who are in therapy themselves--as are both of their therapists (Mary Cobb and Hubert Hodgin).


To David, this Mobius strip of navel-gazing is sheer hypocrisy, even if he must admit some progress with the no-nonsense therapist (Jennifer Dithridge) to whom he's sent.


And David himself isn't above conducting an ill-advised experiment on an introverted Goth classmate (Annie Quinn). A romance unexpectedly blooms, though it can't entirely escape analytic damage.


Under director Justin A. Yoffe, the performances have an edgy naturalism, though he lingers a bit too thoughtfully over the theatrical device of doctors and patients endlessly changing seats.


Still, the play's authentic outrage and raw irony can't be stifled. Like any child raised on the cold comfort of dogma, David must fight bitterly for unmediated communication and unconditional love. That's a struggle all too many of us shrink from.

--Rob Kendt