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LA Theater Review

The Beverly Hills Psychiatrist

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More a skit than a play, the American premiere of this play by Cornelius Schnauber, translated by John Howard and Anne Adams, is exactly what you hoped for, given the play's title: A greedy Beverly Hills psychiatrist drills for shekels in the depressed brain of a writer who has lost his mojo. The psychiatrist (a very personable Alexander Zale) is totally concerned with filling that 50-minute hour with psych-speech, when he's not snoring on his own couch, while his patient (equally attractive Tony Motzenbacker, a seasoned actor with mucho personality) attempts to get his problems solved, although he's fully aware he's a money tree for the doc, who can't even remember his client's name after a year of treatment and a fattened bank account.

The doc's favorite lines are "Your time is up. We'll discuss that at our next session," and "double up on your pills," which quickly get old as they're "comedically" overused. The patient is consistently frustrated; the doctor has tired lingo on the tip of his tongue for every objection of his patient; the "joke" goes on too long. There's very little that's new in this cliché-rich script. It's a question here of who's the doctor and who's the patient. And frankly, do we care? The laughs are quick in coming early in the show, equally swift in losing steam as the repetition drags on for most of an hour. It's directed by Louis Fantasia in a mild case of expense of talent in a waste of shame, to almost coin a phrase.

Following the extended skit is a one-person presentation of "Highway One," a short-short starring Lene Pedersen, written by Schnauber, translated by Adams, and directed by Fantasia. It never explains itself. Pedersen is a pretty woman who spends 25 minutes or so applying gobs of makeup that make her look like a weeping panda while she tells her mirror, and the slowly tiring audience, a sad story of love and loss, one presumes, although the performer's projection is so poor that the audience never gets a shot at figuring out what tale we're being treated to. The general reaction among the groundlings in the theater was "Well, that was a waste of time." And a waste of talent on dated material that doesn't come close to packing a punch.

Presented by the Max Kade Institute for American-German Studies at USC in conjunction with the German-American Cultural Society at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.  Jan. 29–Mar. 6. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (323) 960-4418. www.plays411.com/beverlyhills.

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