Set in the arena of group therapy, Hello, My Name Is... depicts the common contemporary issue of sex addiction while exploring character. Although the audience is sure to feel that they have entered a forbidden zone by overseeing what would normally be a closed session of group therapy, the play is less about the true nature of the sex addict working towards reformation than a chance to pit conflicting personalities against each other. The character exploration is what is most interesting in Stephanie Rabinowitz’s new play. The world of psychology, and even sex addiction itself, are not treated as serious. Those two topics are satirized, actually, and most of the humor in the play comes from a comical treatment of group therapy practices.
Playwright Rabinowitz and director Douglas keep the 90 minute group session from growing stilted by allowing each individual’s turn at revelation to become stylized through partially dramatized sequences with actors from the group taking on other roles, and by using dramatic lighting shifts and mood music. Through these scenes we see the various sexual problems from which each of these characters desires to be free. Not everyone in the group is honest, though, and surprising character turns are revealed. The effect of all the sex talk is less erotic than it is a means to cause conflicts within the group, revealing their complexities.
The final assessment of the topic of group therapy seems to be that it is a sham as a recovery method, although the most cynical of the characters takes it to heart by the end. For two others, the first step towards healing has brought hope. For the rest, participating in real life appears to be a better way. There are no answers, but only continual work towards improving the self for which there is no real end.
The set by Ryan Elliot Kravetz suggests some basement meeting room of a community center. A large bi-level stairway leading to a door looms prominently above the action, taking up much of the floor space. It is a sturdy and imposing structure, allowing for a few moments to be seen on alternative levels, but it is unnecessarily dominant. Melinda Basaca’s costumes help give the seven characters a visual individuality, while Scott Hay’s lighting defined the real from the surreal with effective simplicity. Geoffrey Roecker’s sound design was instrumental in making the stylized scenes work completely, especially during a carnival sideshow routine.
A few standout performances include Jonathan Raviv as Johnny, who is particularly believable and connected to the world of the play. Randy Falcon as Baxter gives a bravado performance and brings the only real charisma onto the stage in a colorfully written character. Tracy Shar, as Faye Davenport, though seeming a bit like a caricature, gives a most humorous depiction of a formerly wealthy divorcé. Jackie Burns, Mia Aden, Jacob Ming-Trent and Peter Marsh complete the ensemble with dedicated performances.
Overall, the play doesn’t reveal much about its topic, but it does offer a group of actors a great opportunity to explore some interesting characters.
Copyright 2007 Michael D. Jackson
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