Timeless Themes From Grove’s Island Rep
By Ariel Blandino Ramerez

Upon introduction to the LaFrance name I immediately wondered if that was his real name or something acquired along the way… Having scheduled to attend one of his directorial productions at the Gove’s Tides Theater, I had the perfect opportunity to ask the man himself.

“My parents are French-Canadian, I was born in Connecticut—and that is my real name!” he stated to me. Check! I quickly moved on to my next thought on his staging of Christopher Durang’s off-Broadway shocker “Beyond Therapy.” Now starring Michelle Cofarro, Peter Scarpinato, Lorelei, Patrick A. Reilly, James Duus and Joseph Feerich, the play debuted in 1981 starring Sigourney Weaver. It acquired a cult-like following, succeded by a short Broadway run.

Billed as a “comedy about a boy who loves a girl, who loves a boy who loves a boy, who needs therapy,” my intrigue was immediate, for haven’t we all, I thought. Yet, I had ask LaFrance why this play, why now? After all, the understanding of bisexuality has broadened since the work’s conception.

“It’s a play that I saw many years ago and I liked it, very much, I read it over after 25 years—it’s [since] been done in regional theater a lot and I thought it was dated, but when I read it I discovered it wasn’t dated at all, [but] hilariously funny,” he said.

“I think the discomfort of the bisexuality/homosexuality [issue] in the 80’s [makes] it funnier now because people can just relax rather then be conflicted about the theme,” he adds. Despite the humor though, LaFrance does give a disclaimer to his audience prior to curtain: there are four gunshots in the production, so if anyone has an aversion to gunshots please cover your ears. Duly noted!

But Lafrance is right. The fashion and hair assuredly make this play a period piece, and boy have the times changed—thank you Miuccia Prada—yet this seemingly dated work is arguably a production that embodies resonating conflicts that still wreak havoc on society today.

The desperation of wanting to be wanted—a timeless common theme in both gay and hetero worlds, although neither camp cares to be slapped in the face with the reminder. A woman’s urgency to beat nature’s biological clock, regardless of how successful or cosmopolitan she may be an everyday occurrence. A man entering a mid-life crisis coming to terms with his need to procreate, regardless of his past dabbling in gay sex (or otherwise termed deviant activity), as profiled by Oprah—a common theme.

These are collective experiences that, when meshed together, upset the viewer’s complacency in having accepted our own romantic tragedies. Throw in doctor-patient sexual harassment, melodrama and the proverbial cliché of “Tell me how you feel,” and one could be left asking “Is this a realistic experience?”

Indeed it is, which left me baffled as to why I was the sole audience member not to laugh out loud. I didn’t laugh because I related—Damn You LaFrance!

The needy, dysfunctional, taboo driven theme of bisexuality/homosexuality and all our basic human desires—a shocker to audiences circa 1981—hasn’t lost its touch, but simply has neglected to update its wardrobe. But as Prudence states to Bruce, “Please don’t say pretentious things; I get a rash!”