Saggy Bosoms 

John Guare's 1979 play is a bust at Aurora.

John Guare's stilted dialogue works beautifully as class commentary in his best-known play, 1990's Six Degrees of Separation. In 1979's Bosoms and Neglect, revived at the Aurora, it just sounds overwritten. Son Scooper moans about his mother's "cancer caper" and tells her "You are all chaos" in this psychoanalysis-junkie romantic comedy.

There's some mildly amusing stuff about analysis subjects' superiority to therapy patients, but it's bogged down with expository dialogue. Scooper and Deirdre, an attractive fellow psychiatric patient he's seen in the waiting room of their mutual shrink for months, reminisce about their meeting mere minutes ago and describe past breakdowns. It's intended to be funny when they constantly change the subject to throwaway literary allusions, but it's simply tedious.

An opening scene with panicking mother Henny having a medical emergency makes Wagnerian opera seem subtle, but it's also mercifully short. More than one can say for the rest of the first act, an interminable flirtation between Scooper and Deirdre.

As designed by J.B. Wilson, Deirdre's apartment consists of one big window and two chaise longues cleverly reminiscent of psychiatrists' couches, with piles of books everywhere. Jon Retsky's lights bathe the apartment in a yellow more sickly than sunny, and Fumiko Bielefeldt's thrift-store-chic costumes ground the characters in the '70s without becoming distracting.

There are more than enough distractions in Cassidy Brown's overstated performance as hyperactive Scooper, with a grating plaintive lilt to his thick New York accent reminiscent of the cartoon cougar Snagglepuss. Beth Wilmurt is more natural as Deirdre, her deliberately casual air of assuredness gradually crumbling as her nervous fidgeting escalates. When her behavior becomes downright bizarre, there's at least a sense that it's been just under the surface all along.

Joan Mankin is a breath of fresh air when she returns in the second act as Scooper's mother Henny. Her mile-a-minute chatter is both charming and exasperating, her blindness credible, and she elicits more than an occasional chuckle with her bewilderment at her own good health and gleeful schadenfreude regarding her son's soap-opera life. More than that, her final monologue is actually heartbreaking, despite illustrating that Guare doesn't know the difference between Amish and Quakers.

Despite some fine performances and the valiant efforts of director Joy Carlin to keep things moving, neither can save a deeply troubled play that's ultimately beyond therapy.


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