Therapy in the Park

Parents’ Weekend is notorious for leaving Phillips Academy’s campus devoid of students. At the most, families stay for the evening they intend to see Grasshopper Night before rushing away for off-campus dining, hotel sleepovers, or, most coveted, weekends at home. The students left behind are often overcome with frustration at having no one to see and nothing to do. Dances and movies are distressingly unpopulated. However, this Monday’s theater classroom, “Therapy in the Park,” drew a larger audience than expected. Directed by James Siddall ’07, the show lasted no more than fifteen minutes, but brought together a pleasant blend of witty lines and comical, if somewhat random, characters. The five-person cast was made up of Siddall, Alexander Wong ’07, Domenic Minicucci ’06, Susan Zhou ’06, and Rashmi Bhat ’06. Wong excellently conveyed his character’s lack of social skills with his shy manner and shaky voice. However, although he played a quiet person, Wong could have been more deliberate with some of his lines. His delivery was confusing at times as it was unclear whether Wong was stumbling or simply demonstrating his character’s insecurities. Other than this, his performance was consistent throughout the play. Zhou, on her quest, encounters a number of offbeat personalities. First she meets Minicucci, an overly joyful man who insists that the purpose of life is happiness. Minicucci shone in his short time onstage. His flamboyant speech fit the show perfectly, and he evidently enjoyed his role. His could have portrayed his character in a two dimensional way, but Minicucci made it original with his own special twist. Next, Zhou meets Bhat, a distraught and incredibly preppy tennis player. Bhat’s energetic performance was full of hysterical sobbing. Although she easily could have lost control and made her sobbing overkill, she kept it together, creating a character that was entertaining and extreme, but not so exaggerated that she couldn’t be taken seriously. Finally, Zhou encounters Siddall, a delusional fellow who refuses to understand why his fake bird will not eat when it is offered crumbs. Clad in a mélange of sweatshirts and jackets with a waterfall of grey hair flowing from his chin, Siddall was transformed from a PA lower into an elderly man. He gave the most comic performance of the play, and although half of his lines were directed at a rubber parrot, his delivery was forceful. Yet where Bhat and Minicucci held control over their lines, it was more difficult to take Siddall’s character seriously because of his all-encompassing comedy. Overall, he gave a good, if somewhat untidy performance. Susan Zhou really got into her part. Although some of her lines were absolutely ludicrous, she took them in stride, and made them believable with her gestures and tones. The only downside was the repetitiveness of her lines; what was funny and unique at first lost its pizzazz as it was recycled throughout the play. Therapy in the Park’s witty lines and outrageous were reminiscent of an Oscar Wilde story. Although some of the acting choices could have been more definite and some lines more clearly pronounced, the play was fresh, funny and genuinely entertaining. The show provided a sweet fifteen minutes of therapy for those with the “left-behind-blues.”