nytheatre.com review by Hannah Gold
September 10, 2009
How much is the devil really in the details? Tongue and Cheek Theater's heavenly production of Psych seeks to answer that question with plenty of tongue and an appropriate amount of cheek. Directed by Jason Bohon, the show centers on one "Mistress" Sunny (Jake Lipman) who is both a committed clinical psychology student attending a prestigious university in New York City, and a very professional dominatrix. Though bondage may be too clingy for the typical psych student, it fits just fine on Sunny, who manages to emit a Mother Theresa-like aura even with a couple of sadomasochists suspended by their ankles in her dungeon. Lipman does a superb job of straddling the ever-thinning line between darling and self-destruction. But even an archangel in thigh-high boots can fall; it just takes one deal too many.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Molly (Brynne Kraynak), Sunny's longtime-friend-from-college-turned-roommate with some extremely masochistic tendencies of her own. With the ever-irresistible unreliable narrator at play nothing is off limits: projection, transference, displacement, and fantasy are all up for grabs. Let's just say that Sunny has some very talented friends helping with her part time job. Mistress Desiree (Tele Durham) is a dangerously disturbed domme with both drug and boyfriend woes, while Mistress Dominique is an Amazon and a half with the giant voice to match (played with fee-fi-fo-fum aplomb by Maryll Botula). The two only appear briefly, but both supply plenty of seductive pain.
School, of course provides Sunny with its own special brand of torture. Forget whips and leather straps, Sunny's egocentric professor is a strict Freudian with a fetish for pinstripe suits and making his students feel unnerved. Brian W. Seibert does a bang-up job at playing the academic yet dominating teacher. The mistress also stirs up trouble with her xenophobic classmate Jennifer (Kerri Ford) who misinterprets poor Sunny's attempts at friendship as sexual advances.
For a one-act of only about an hour and a half, Psych takes its time. Playwright Evan Smith fills his script with seemingly inconsequential, everyday moments—a chat with a friend, a desperate attempt to master the complexities of caller ID—but make no mistake, while the bulk of the performance may play like a tease it reveals itself to be more of an exhibitionist by the end. The mundane and the ordinary add up again and again and turn out to be everyone's undoing, for in the grand tradition of analysis, Psych is a show that runs on surface tension. And yet sometimes Smith manages to dig deeper even than that in his search for the devil, taking us beyond the pleasure principle, to the brink of wanting more, and wanting it all again.