Three on a Couch

Carl Djerassi
King's Head
(2004)

Three on a Couch takes place in a therapist's consulting room on 77th Street in New York. In the tiny space at the King's Head, designer Nicky Shaw works wonders, creating a packed, book-lined room laden with suitably Freudian symbols and the titular couch.

The plot revolves around narcissistic, Pulitzer-winning author Rolf Saxon's Stephen Marks and his attempts to achieve posterity rather than popularity.

In order to do this, he decides to recreate himself à la Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (or Reggie Perrin). To get there, he needs two things, a faked suicide and a confidant. For the latter role, he selects nervy therapist, former Robin Hood Michael Praed playing Theo.

The fairly thin plot begins to flesh out on the arrival of Stephen's glamorous not-widow, the impossibly tall blonde Miriam. She is played by a rather uncertain though beautifully dressed Leigh Zimmerman, better known for her work in musicals such as Chicago.

The trio play off against each other as Miriam tries to seduce the shy doctor, while Stephen uses him as a sounding board. It is inevitable that husband and wife will meet and an audible answering machine ensures this. The play then builds up to an argumentative climax in which the winner will surprise few.

Three on a Couch can be funny but scientist Djerassi wears his learning very heavily and rarely gets beneath the surface of his characters in what turns out to be a very light sex comedy. At least the mango has a good time getting to grips with the characters' superegos in a way that they do not always manage themselves.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version

Reviewer: Philip Fisher