Chicago Theatre Review
Idle Muse’s ‘Talking Cure’ Hampered by Stiff Performances
“The Talking Cure” by Christopher Hampton is a work I’m well familiar with, albeit in a different form – it was adapted by David Cronenberg into the masterful film “A Dangerous Method” – and though Idle Muse’s capable production offers many positives, several drawbacks ultimately holding it back from capturing the same spellbinding mystery of Cronenberg’s tome.
The setting is early 20th century Switzerland, and Carl Jung, years before he became the foremost psychologist in the world, is trying out Sigmund Freud’s then pioneering “talking cure” on his first patient, a deeply troubled Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein. After working through her problems (which the play covers in excruciating detail), Jung and Spielrein become lovers, a development that occurs in tandem with Jung’s blossoming friendship (and eventual rivalry) with Freud.
“The Talking Cure” is, to forgive the pun, an excessively talky play, and it ultimately rises and falls on the strength of its cast; sadly, that is where Idle Muse’s production comes up short. Though Caty Gordon, in the role of Sabina, is downright electric in her role with a flawless Russian accent and magnetic stage presence, both Patrick Doolin (as Carl Jung) and Vincent P. Mahler (Sigmund Freud) are unable to capture the presence of the brilliant men they portray; from Mahler I was left particularly wanting, hoping to better catch a glimpse of the overwhelming ego and persuasiveness of the psychoanalysis pioneer. Similarly underwhelming was Nathan Pease as Otto Gross, a one-time patient of Jung’s who, we know from the historical record, had a profound affect on Jung’s approach to psychology – yet under Evan Jackson’s direction, Pease plays Gross more as a goofy clown with the occasional insight, an approach the robs the character of his impact.
I can respect Jackson and his actors taking a different approach with the material – “A Dangerous Method” can be called many things, but “funny” is not one of them – but “The Talking Cure” is not a play that lends itself well to comedy, especially given the sadomasochism, humiliation, and professional rivalries that fuel the play’s characters. Call it a solid double, rather than a triple or a home run.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through March 22 by Idle Muse Theatre Company at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N Ridge Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
Tickets are available by calling 773-340-9438 or by visiting www.idlemuse.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.