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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater (off-Bway)

By David Lefkowitz

  Matthew Shepard & Amy Bodnar

Everything you need to know - or witness - about the new off-Broadway musical, Sessions, you can guess from its set-up: a successful New York psychiatrist counsels a varied group of patients in group therapy. A married couple bickers, a sexy blonde has a crush on the doc, a real-estate tycoon has issues with his dying dad, a nice woman faces domestic abuse, a shy young man fears women and a snarky young man thinks he's Bob Dylan.

Okay, now try putting that together without the wit of Bob Newhart, and then load it down with a cluster of colorless, by-the-numbers songs with ho-hum lyrics, and you have more than enough reason to avoid the painless but numbingly mediocre musical now playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater (no, it's not a Playwrights Horizons production, so don't blame them).

One also can't blame author Al Tapper for being attracted to the material; it must have felt like a surefire way to get an eclectic batch of loony characters together, make jokes but still be serious, and give everybody a chance to shine in solo spots. What's missing is inspiration, and that makes all the difference.


Do we care that Dr. Peterson (stolid Matthew Shepard) may risk his marriage and drift into an affair with toothsome Leila (Amy Bodnar)? Not especially. Are we stunned that Mary (Trisha Rapier), who ignores the doc's advice to get specific counseling for battered women, comes to a bad end? Nope. Are we surprised that when Peterson suffers a crisis of faith in his career, the patients get together and remind him how helpful he's been to them? Only if we haven't seen a zillion sitcoms and musicals.

On the other hand, are we bothered that the actor/character who's supposed to be imitating Bob Dylan 24/7 sounds like Zimmy only when he sings one song and the rest of the time comes off as a generic jerk? Yup. Are we as bored by the gaps between song lyrics as we are by the pauses when Peterson talks to his own (offstage) shrink? Yes indeed. Are we irritated that "The Murphys' Squabble" song is backed by a riff lifted from Company's"The Little Things You Do Together"? Darn tootin'. And are we stunned that the play's semi-happy ending turns on an absurd coincidence involving sunlight, a book title and hippies? Crap yes.


On the plus side, Ms. Bodnar is pretty, talented, has gorgeous hair and knows how to wear a red dress, and Al Bundonis brings low-key believability to the wealthy scion who buys buildings because he can't afford his father's love.

Okay, that's enough positive affirmation for now. Time's up.






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