Theater review: ‘Beverly Hills Psychiatrist’ at the Lounge Theatre 2

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Anyone who’d seek answers from the “Beverly Hills Psychiatrist” in residence at the Lounge Theatre 2 ought to have his head examined.

Professor Cornelius Schnauber’s satirical swipe at the psychiatric profession charts the progress (or lack thereof) in an angst-ridden writer’s psychoanalysis at the hands of a stunningly inept therapist. In a series of blackouts depicting the closing minutes of their weekly sessions over more than a year, the not-so-good doctor (Alexander Zale) is unable to remember the case history, medication dosages or even the name of his patient (Tony Motzenbacker), a successful author whose emotional life has become disconnected from language.

Unfortunately, in its cerebral detachment the play shares the patient’s affliction. Taking endless rehashing to deliberately absurdist lengths à la Brecht or Ionesco, the sessions cover much the same ground, with an occasional new thought mixed into the theme-and-variation construction. That therapy is rarely a clean, linear progression of insights is a thoughtful observation, but any inventiveness is undermined by familiar clichéd complaints about psychiatry: running out of time when just on the verge of a breakthrough, peddling pharmaceuticals, being more concerned with collecting fees than achieving results, making patients pay for missed sessions, and so on.

While all humor is built on incongruity, it requires a rational or at least pseudo-rational context; here, the premise that someone would continue seeing a senile analyst for this long is a stretch of credibility and patience, and the faltering performances lack the comic timing to sell it. Thematic fear of abandonment links Schnauber’s one-act with a short excerpt from his latest play, “Highway One” (Louis Fantasia directs both). In this more conventional monologue, an opera diva (agreeable Lene Pedersen) copes with traumas past and present as she prepares for the role of Aida. Ending on the brink of a life turning point (presumably continued in the full play), it mirrors “Beverly Hills Psychiatrist” in a shared absence of even shrink-wrapped solutions.


–- Philip Brandes

“Beverly Hills Psychiatrist,” the Lounge Theatre 2, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 6. $20. (323) 960-4418 or Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.