Five patients, one therapist crazier than all of them put together, and an interloper who is about to have a drastic effect on all of them: welcome to group therapy.
A therapy group is an interesting choice of setting for a musical and it is quite effective, allowing for a series of character stories which overlap and feed into one another. The characters are pleasantly distinct from each another, and while essentially they are just archetypes, there are enough subversions of clichés to keep things interesting. Themes such as loss, loneliness and the desperate desire for children are all touched upon, though inevitably some characters’ stories are more effective than others. It is striking that as the play develops, the platitudes Patrick the therapist forces his group to recite take on greater and greater resonance, even as he himself begins to betray the depth of his own problems. For all the scepticism on display here about the therapeutic process, it is also interesting to note that the characters most able to be honest with themselves are those who have been in therapy the longest.
Of the songs, there is a great variety of comedy and ballad. Barbara’s song of how to get revenge on an ex-lover is delightful, and Chris’ sweeter meditation on his desire for old-fashioned romance has a great deal of charm. Great tunes, interesting story, this is a delightful piece of theatre.