Reviving an obscure comedy from the 1960s about two New York psychoanalysts and their sexy literary agent is not a challenge that would appeal to every small regional theater, but Circle Bar B and director Joseph Beck have fielded an offbeat summer winner with William F. Brown’s The Girl in the Freudian Slip. The production, which runs through July 11, capitalizes on the opportunities for adroit physical comedy provided by the script and works cleverly within the limitations of its dated humor and references. Starting with television sitcom-style material, the multigenerational cast spins out something that’s not only fully stage-worthy but also lots of fun and more interesting than simple nostalgia.
Rodney Baker does all the heavy lifting as Dewey Maugham, the main character and practitioner of “nondirectional” psychoanalysis. Following in the path of several generations of televised comedy leads, Dewey manifests a severe case of URST—“unresolved sexual tension.” Years before, Dewey narrowly avoided succumbing to the temptations of a young nymphomaniac patient, only to sublimate the experience in the form of a sexed-up one-act play. When his daughter, Leslie (Claire Gordon-Harper), discovers the manuscript, it’s only a short while before his rival analyst, Alec Rice (Paul Taylor), has handed off the play to his literary agent, Barbara Leonard (Nikole Hollenitsch). Dewey and his wife, Paula (Deborah Helm), have been having a rough time of it lately, and it all seems to have something to do with the libidinous Alec, who may be having an affair with Dewey’s wife.
True to its source decade’s politics, the sparks in this show start flying whenever the generation gap opens up. First, it’s a hilarious moment of improv in the therapeutic session between Dr. Dewey Maugham and his young patient Peter Wellman (George Coe). Later, it’s the radical spirits of female sexual liberation entering the stage incarnate. As Leonard and her alter ego Linda Stone, Hollenitsch gives a rip-roaring turn that grabs everyone’s attention and won’t let go. Hollenitsch is bigger than Baker, and in her black Bettie Page wig à la Pulp Fiction, she’s also curiously gender-bending at times. Whereas the performances of Baker, Taylor, and Helm seem to emanate from the cool blue light of 1970s television, Hollenitsch packs the heat of contemporary sketch improv, and the collision of styles is hilarious and exciting, proof beyond a doubt that new laughs can be found in older genres and forms.