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THE pain of loss is sweetened by a little gentle humour in Rhonda Is In Therapy, Bridgette Burton’s play about a successful woman who grieves after the accidental death of her five-year old son.
Rhonda, played with brittleness and untamed passion by Louise Crawford, is a professor of chemical engineering who is driven by her work, compulsive about her therapy, unable to bond with her second child and unwilling to share her grief with her husband.
Ben Grant is warm, engaging and totally credible as Lief, Rhonda’s stoical, good-humoured but emotionally abandoned German husband, who is also a professor of chemical engineering but chooses to stay home to raise their child.
Rhonda’s grief and despair drive her into a clandestine, foolhardy and lusty affair with her student, played by Jamieson Caldwell with youthful exuberance mixed with coyness and blind adoration.
Burton’s script keeps us guessing about Rhonda’s secrets and compulsions, although we do not like or sympathise with her as much as one would assume when we witness her neglect of her living child and loyal husband.
Kelly Nash as the glib therapist provides both insight and humour as she pressures Rhonda to face her truth.
Wayne Pearn sets the production in a fragile, cage-like design by Kat Chan, evocatively lit by Richard Vabre, emphasising Rhonda’s entrapment in her grief, both past and present.
There are explicit, simulated sex scenes in this production that effectively illuminate the odd combination of passion and lovelessness of Rhonda’s affair with the young man.
In some awkward theatrical moments, actors play scenes with an invisible child whose voice Nash provides off-stage, and these moments jar with the naturalistic acting style of the rest of the play.
Although some of the narrative twists are predictable and Louise’s predicament is perhaps too easily resolved in the end, the script has some clever nuances and it takes us on a poignant journey with Rhonda and her family.