“Two Wrongs” is Too Forgiving

Photo credit: Brown Box’s Facebook page

Presented by Brown Box Theatre Project
By Scott Caan
Directed by Kyler Taustin

Boston: January 31 – February 9, 2014
Atlantic Wharf
290 Congress Street
Boston, MA

Ocean City: February 14 – 17, 2014
Ocean City Center for the Arts
502 94th Street
Ocean City, MD

Brown Box Theatre on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) The Brown Box Theatre Project’s Two Wrongs is a comedy-drama that concerns the tenuous, complex nature of doctor/patient relationships and the temptation to abuse authority.  It’s an entertaining show, but it never interrogates its wrongdoers too sharply.  Its tone is ultimately one of sympathy, perhaps a little too gentle.

Two Wrongs starts on a strange note.  It pretends to be a screwball comedy where psychiatrist Julian (Brooks Reeves) attempts to set up two of his patients, Shelly (Chelsea Schmidt) and Terry (Alex Marz).  Pleased to see he’s successful in making the match despite violating the distance he’s supposed to keep as their doctor, Julian soon discovers that, involved with their personal lives, it’s impossible to extract himself.

Scott Caan’s play tries to walk the line between darkness and humor.  Mostly, with the help of actors Reeves, Schmidt, and Marz, it succeeds.  All three give nuanced, often vulnerable performances. We never find out exactly what has triggered Shelly and Terry to see a therapist, but audiences see the sensitivity with which they communicate their experiences to Julian.  Schmidt’s Shelly obsesses over small details in her potential dates and Marz’s Terry wanders around the doctor’s office and picks at objects nervously.  Even Reeves’ Julian, at his most monstrously manipulative, is ultimately fragile.  He first takes advantage of his patients’ confidences because he genuinely thinks it’s the right thing to do.  He’s fooled himself into thinking he knows far better than they do.

What evolves, though, is less a cautionary tale than Julian’s search for forgiveness.  I’m unsure if he really deserves much sympathy by the end of the play, however.  He does, after all, violate the standards of his profession.  Eventually, as the relationships in the play change into the shape of a more traditional love triangle, his manipulation becomes grotesque.  The play is aware of this to an extent, at least, and doesn’t shy away from the fact Julian is doing bad things, but his mistake isn’t automatically a means for self-tragedy.

As a note, it’s also uncomfortable how Shelly is portrayed as shrewish with no real reason to be until she starts dating.  Her character grows and changes through out the play, but this first impression is a sour one.

Even though Two Wrongs falls down a couple times, the Brown Box Theater Project certainly has its aesthetics in order.  The choice of an open lobby area in Atlantic Wharf for its first couple performances gives it a nice office flavor and music cues and direction chosen by Kyler Taustin are strong.  With him and the rest of the group at the helm, Two Wrongs thrives with a good deal of energy and humor.

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