Three On a Couch

Better known as the founding father of the contraceptive pill, Carl Djerassi has found a second career in later life as an author and playwright, often staging plays that he's described as 'science in fiction' pieces that give a dramatic foundation to certain ethical dilemmas. His latest offering, set in New York and billed as a comedy, explores not a science issue but the unusual notion of a man faking his own death in order to gauge the veracity of the critical reaction to his fiction.

Writer Stephen Marx (Rolf Saxon) is an affluent, celebrated figure in the literary world but he's nonetheless discontent and determines to stage his own demise whilst continuing to write using a succession of heteronyms- imaginary identities all differently utilising his creative abilities. The only person privy to his bizarre plan is Freudian psychoanalyst Theodore Hoffman ( a persuasive Michael Praed) who's drawn unwittingly into a conspiratorial role, a position that becomes untenable when Stephen's glamorous and inquisitive wife Miriam (Leigh Zimmerman) arrives looking for answers.

'Man is simply obsessed by the idea of wanting to read his own obituary,' believes Djerassi and it's certainly a novel idea, but the play never really takes flight, feeling too contrived with an unconvincing central performance from Saxon as the egostistical author. Nicky Shaw's stage set is more impressive, vividly conjuring the cerebral world the analyst inhabits, but though the picnic scene between him and Miriam is laden with humorous and erotic double entendres, a more consistent comedic edge is needed to raise this above the level of being just mildly entertaining.

(Amanda Hodges)

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