THEATRE REVIEW: MY SHRINK IS KILLING ME
By Jain Lemos
Our recent warm spell is being partly fueled by the laughter coming out of Sandia Park. That’s where the East Mountain Center for Theatre (EMCT) is running, “My Shrink is Killing Me,” a murder mystery that is both exceptionally funny and surprisingly difficult to solve.
Richard Atkins is celebrating his tenth year of writing and directing his original October whodunits in a dinner theater setting at the Vista Grande Community Center. This year’s annual crime variety allows his well-versed cast to experiment with their theatrical truths on a New York therapy couch under the care of a psychiatrist who is battier than his clientele. The fallout is an assortment of lunacy in the extreme as Atkins gives his players sharply crafted prose for portraying neurotic, irrational, obsessive and downright cuckoo patients.
Scott Claunch does a fine job maintaining his composure as the pre-occupied Dr. Green. His office looks like it was decorated by a color-blind consignment shop owner after his first trip to Africa. Make no mistake, the set is Atkins’ premeditated ploy to reflect the chaos ahead. Playing Mrs. Treefall, Dr. Green’s receptionist, is P.J. Davis who neatly blends mother and charge nurse into a fittingly nice but annoying assistant. As the patients—and future murder suspects—arrive, the silliness builds with each new session.
Tim Reardon as Mr. Harris, a contrarian who is adverse to life itself, has such an unpopular attitude that you just want to smack him. In one bit, it’s a hoot watching Reardon callously relishing his insistence on using his Discover card (who even takes Discover card?) to make his co-payment. The sparkly Mrs. Katz, played with gusto by Sharon Sprauge, is a marvelously created creature who is so conversationally engaged she brings an agonizing new meaning to being in the moment. Sprauge is completely solid in the role and she maximizes every chance Atkins gives her to be naturally funny without trying.
Elisa River Stacy Nelson masters the knack of exhibiting attention deficit disorder as the compulsive Ms. Grayson. Nelson concocts a way to display the character’s hamster mind that is truly hysterical. In the second act she enchantingly bursts into an incredible pigeon-counting narrative that confirms Atkins has touches of creative madness. Atkins and his wife Cheryl get into the patient/suspect parade as Mr. and Mrs. Holbridge, the token rurals-in-the-big-city, who are not really crazy they’re just miserable with each other. It’s good fun to have them in the fray.
The laugh meter hits howling when Justin Raper appears as the fragmented Mr. Bramble. Raper runs through a bizarre personality carousel with perfect speed and agility. From Perry Mason and Robbie the Robot to Julia Child and the most fantastical personas imaginable, Raper sends juice to the climatic socket for the entire production. When it’s time to investigate, Marcus Martin as Lieutenant Starks shifts his voice sideways and expresses a textbook noir-style gumshoe opposite Katie Wacek as the intensive Detective Adams.
Contemporaneously witty and expertly executed, “My Shrink is Killing Me” displays Atkins’ special ability to consistently deliver high mountain, high level entertainment. The show runs Friday and Saturday nights through October 24 with tickets available through EMCT’s website.