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    What the Hell's Your Problem?

    Self-hell movement

    "What the Hell's Your Problem?" is a clever and well-executed play in the style of a self-help seminar in which the actors will spill their guts and you might be called on to do the same.


    (Originally reviewed at Paradise Theater in April 2002.)

    At the Paradise Theater on East 4th Street, the house lights don't dim when the performance begins. Everyone in the audience wears a nametag that also sports Dr. Bob's smiling face. (I considered putting a fake name on my tag, but the dishonesty of it would have been too much pressure, as I sat there for two hours watching people work on their own issues.) The lovely assistant Fawn (a stellar Eileen O'Connell) started the evening off because, on the night that I was there, Dr. Bob was late. And Dr. Bob was the main reason most people were in that room. Fawn pointed at us and yelled "What the hell's . . ."


    Related links: Official site
    Show World Theater Complex
    671 Eighth Ave. between 42nd and 43rd
    Previews start: March 21, 2002
    May 16 - July 20, 2002

    " . . . YOUR PROBLEM!" we would shout back gleefully at the beautiful blonde who was trying to keep the seminar going. Sounds like fun, but there was the terror that maybe I was going to have to go up and sit on the hot seat and "spill," which is Dr. Bob's phrase for getting up in front of the group and sharing. Did I look depressed, tense, like I needed to cathart? Would I be grabbed and made to pour out the secrets of my relationship with my mother? Fortunately, there were people in the audience who'd been to a Dr. Bob self-help seminar before, and some of them didn't mind spilling, even without the presence of the doctor himself. (We were constantly being reminded that he was not a medical doctor, and we were required to sign a release form if we chose to spill.) Halfway through the evening I realized that there were plenty of people present with the gift of gab, aided generously by Tom Noonan's gift of great dialogue (and monologue). Those in the house who would take no substitute for Dr. Bob provided regular and entertaining interruption.

    A lot of comedy and cleverness here, handled skillfully by all of the actors. Noonan's writing is both funny and biting, and although I found some of the spills a bit long-winded for driving drama, they were never lacking in realism, if a little short on ingenuity. Perhaps Noonan (author of the very uncomfortable but intelligent play and film "What Happened Was . . .") was trying to keep the humanity, or the everyman quality, so that we could relate to most of the participants. I'd love to share with you some of the evening's spillage, but I signed that form that said, "I will not divulge the identity of participant or reveal to any third party here or elsewhere any information or events that may be shared during my time here."

    The ending, too, was crafty, witty and disturbing. "What the Hell's Your Problem?" is not your usual evening at the theater, and it lets you have a good time even while you're shifting uncomfortably in your seat. And as far as educational seminars go, I think you'll get more than your money's worth.

    APRIL 22, 2002

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