From Jerry Springer's end-of-show homilies to John Edward helping audience members contact dead relatives who "crossed over," it was only a matter of time before psychological therapy crossed over into entertainment. That time is now.
At Off-Off-Broadway's HERE Arts Center, Lisa Levy hosts a monthly show that's a cross between stand-up comedy, improv — and gestalt. Titled Psychotherapy Live! Psychotherapy as Performance Art, it's about — well, just look at the title.
More specifically, audience members volunteer to spend 13 minutes on an actual couch, with Levy helping to analyze and solve one of their conflicts. Levy isn't an actual licensed therapist, which may explain the $12, which, even multiplied by four, is a lot less than the going rate for a real shrink.
That said, this isn't the first time working through personal issues has served as popular entertainment. A season ago, an English troupe brought Lifegame to Off-Broadway, wherein one audience member watched major events in his life acted out by the group, usually for comic but occasionally for cathartic effect. The show, which received mixed reviews, flopped at the box office and became the basis for a failed American cable TV version. Rolling back the clock a couple of decades, American morning talk show host Stanley Siegel made headlines and history by lying on the couch and having himself analyzed by a psychiatrist.
Lisa Levy's street creds are a little different from the average analyst's. According to spokesperson Karen Greco, Levy's claims to fame include offering "Hamster Bowling" as part of the David Letterman show's "Stupid Pet Tricks" segment, stealing objects and then displaying them in an art gallery, and "making and putting cement cow turds under the artful cows in the cow parade in Manhattan." Village Voice critic James Hannaham caught a version of the piece when it played in August as part of HERE's "American Living Room Series." He noted that Levy kept a copy of "Psychology Made Easy" handy throughout the show and handed out nude pictures of herself as prizes to the volunteers.
Asked about the show, production spokesperson Karen Greco told PBOL (Dec. 28), "I think what's really cool about it is the timing of it. After Sept. 11, everyone's running to their therapists. This is a unique and funny take on that; she's absolutely hysterical. And we need the ability to laugh at things right now."
Psychotherapy Live! next plays Jan. 28 and Feb. 25 at HERE, 145 Sixth Ave. For information call (212) 647-0202 or check out HERE's website at www.here.org.
— By David Lefkowitz