Two things upfront. First, whatever my opinion of Sam Bobrick's comedy The Psychic, at South Park Theatre, it's important I tell you that the audience ate it up!
Second, in order to discuss this play, I'm going to have to reveal some of its "secrets" (although honestly, I don't think there's a person alive who couldn't see them coming).
The play depicts Adam Webster, a would-be writer in such dire financial straits that he pretends to be a psychic. But that pretense falls apart when he falls in love with his first client, Laura, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Soon Adam's doorbell is ringing off the wall, and each time the door opens another character enters: Laura's husband, his mistress, her boyfriend and a police detective.
To tell you the truth, this part was rough sledding indeed. Bobrick's characters spout endless exposition in flat pedestrian writing and seem, for all the world, to be Raymond Chandler archetypes.
Which turns out to be the play's weird, postmodern point. In fact (SPOILER ALERT), all of the characters are characters in Webster's just-begun novel. The problem, as one of them says: "I'm a character he's writing … and he ain't that good a writer!" Webster, at least as Bobrick writes him, is a hack incapable of writing well.
Let that sink in: We're watching banal writing … on purpose! I wish I could say that when Bobrick comes out of the conceit and writes the "real" play, the quality elevates. But that never happens.
Wayne Brinda directs all of this with a sure, even hand. It wouldn't have killed anyone if they would have gone a bit faster, but Guil Cordeiro makes as much of Webster as anyone could, and Cynthia Caul finds some nice variations as Laura. It sounds like a slap to say that Ray Cygrymus, Jordan Christian, Daniel Vereb and Bill Crean never rise above the stereotypes of their characters, but it's actually praise because hey! -- that's exactly what the writer wants.
And, oh yeah, the audience loved it.
THE PSYCHIC continues through Aug. 27. South Park Theatre, Corrigan Drive and Brownsville Road, South Park. 412-831-8552 or www.southparktheatre.com