OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – The play “Psych” is a ricochet romance with farce, a modern one. Farces have very much to do with lying.
In this story created by Lisa Rowe, the catalyst character seeks treatment for his lying from a psychiatrist, even though he is a psychiatrist.
In the early stages of Oshkosh Community Players’ production at The Grand Oshkosh, actors Dalton Zanin and Josiah Dempsey deliver a kind of tennis match of verbal zaniness. This is rapid and crisp and heady. The two know how to unload crackling comedic lines.
In this part, the audience finds out the lying fellow – who goes by Joe or Jim or Clyde whatever name he chooses at a moment – is on the lam for a charge of manslaughter. “Jim” wants to pretend to be the psychiatrist he is visiting, Dr. Smith, so as to prove to his wife – his second – that he, “Bob” to her, indeed has an office in which he practices.
This play does have a road map, but it seems to have been drawn by a drunken spider weaving a web.
The point of it is all comic fun of a farce, to which director Christopher Borgardt and his cast are attuned.
Joining the fray is something real – anaphylactic shock – and, not necessarily in this order, pistols and more lies and a twin brother and a gangster and more lies and a pizza delivery guy and a pregnancy and more lies and the red nose of a clown and “Yikes!!!!” about that and a toilet brush and “Yikes!!!!” about that and a person also of the “psych” of the title.
In addition to the two psychiatrists is a psychic, Lydia.
Lydia has a Russian accent and a way of foretelling the future and seeing the truth of the past, such as knowing “Jim” is really Edward. Ellen Magnin taps into the playfulness in the role, as do the whizzes at comedic energy Dalton Zanin and Josiah Dempsey (whether as Dr. Smith or his twin, Sam).
Joining the bolts of comedic desperation are Molly Schlaak as “Jim”/“Bob”/Edward’s wife, Suzanne, Zach Caldwell as a greenhorn detective, Irving, and, in a pinch because of illness in the cast on Thursday night, director Christopher Borgardt impressively stepping in to play the hot-under-the-collar Gangster.
Lisa Rowe’s play gallops much of the way before turning expository in explaining what has happened in the lives of Edward and Dr. Smith that developed into mayhem.
Among the oddities is the start of the play, which Thursday was five minutes prior to the announced time. Dr. Smith wordlessly fusses around his office, moving folders and touching this and that before leaving sight through a door. Pause. Pause. A flush… a sound gag, and the play begins.
“Psych” is the start of the 75th season of Oshkosh Community Players, a bunch of people who like to go anywhere theater takes folks. This time, it’s on a bizarre trip with abundant laughs.
Running time: Two hours, five minutes
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24
Creative: Playwright – Lisa Rowe: director – Christopher Borgardt; assistant director – Tonie Yankowski; stage manager – Austin Borgardt
Cast (in order of appearance):
Dr. Smith/Sam – Josiah Dempsey
Edward – Dalton Zanin
Irving – Zach Caldwell
Suzanne – Molly Schlaak
Gangster – Christopher Borgardt (9.22)
THE VENUE: Located at 100 High Ave. in Oshkosh, the 550-seat Grand Opera House is one of Wisconsin’s showcase surviving theaters. Built for live performance well before the arrival of movies, the theater opened Aug. 9, 1883. Designed by architect William Waters, the building reflects the opulence of the era and the strength of Oshkosh at the time. Roman influences abound in columns and support elements. Ceiling and wall artistry is elaborately detailed. A portrait of William Shakespeare above the stage gives the impression he is overseeing everything. See thegrandoshkosh.org/history for details on the theater’s rich history and ongoing challenges. When you are there, wander around the building – up and down stairways and in and around nooks and crannies – and savor the details along with vintage photos and displays. For instance, in the balcony are elaborate sections everywhere. In the rear ceiling are rectangles fringed by flowers and vines. The largest rectangle includes a crossing pattern with a square at the center that’s angled like a diamond. In the front ceiling, a crossing pattern in the central square leads to a circle which depicts cherubs at play, one riding a fly. The top edge on side walls is curved, with images being a series of potted trumpet vines interspersed with maize. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The building is owned by and receives financial support from the City of Oshkosh.