Review of Tricks of the Trade
TRICKS OF THE TRADE by Sidney Michaels
At the Lion and Unicorn until March 9th ****
This play by award winning playwright and screen writer Sidney Michaels was produced in New York in 1980 for nine previews and one single performance! This production is from a revised version written in 1983 and adapted and directed by Dumle Kogbara. Whatever happened in the original – which involved four actors including George C Scott as Dr Browning, this is now an interesting, many layered two hander. It is amazing that – to my knowledge – it has not been performed before as it is a fascinating, exploration into relationship psychology and the gender war as well as being a riveting thriller.
Diana Woods, an elegant young woman enters the swanky consulting room of Dr Browning, clinical psychotherapist. She is neurotic, she feels lonely, alienated; she despises her parents who are paying for her treatment. She appears to be an over privileged poor little rich girl – a kind of Paris Hilton. He persuades her to take a job and pay for her own treatment. They begin to meet regularly – three times a week. It seems at first like a normal patient doctor relationship until she starts making enquiries about him and finds out facts about his life and he is forced to reveal things about himself. From now on they exchange confidences – like his relationship with his ex wife who is a Christian Scientist and the fact that she is intending to marry her gay boss. The situation is no longer professional but highly sexually charged. Very slowly one becomes aware that neither of these people are what they seem or profess to be as they become more and more enmeshed in lies and deceptions. The sessions go on for almost a year and the tension never lets up for a moment until the denouement which is unexpected but wholly satisfying.
There is terrific chemistry between these two actors.
Daniel McLoughlin is perfect casting as the cynical, teasing Doctor, who displays vulnerability by playing a totally believable drunk scene (though even that may or may not be real). He delivers Michaels’ one liners with relish. “I’m a crossword in a paper full of bad news. People are pleased to see me.”
Florence Kuhfeld fits the role of troubled sex goddess, making great play of her totteringly high heels that clatter as she paces across the wooden floor. She wears deliberately sexual garments, split skirts that show flashes of suspenders holding up her black stockings. From the first moment we are aware that she is out to entrap him. Dumle Kogbara has done a great job of adapting and directing this play and – knowing the ending – one would be interested to see it again. Sadly this was the final performance, but let us hope it will reappear soon.