Couple sticks their tongues out at each other.

The course of true love never did run smooth.
—Lysander from A Midsummer’s Night Dream

Woman grabs older man by the collar
Photos by Garry Kluger

Four of Shakespeare’s tumultuous couples go pay a visit to therapist Dr. Patricia Cataldo’s office, (Constance Mellors). All four have problems, from their respective plays, are seeking psychiatric attention for it. Good luck with that!

Dr. Cataldo has a lot going on and her patients ultimately outstretch their hour for relief.  Her first couple is the forever doomed love between Hamlet and Ophelia (Rick Simone-Friedland and Deanna Gandy). The Prince of Denmark reaches out to his deceased father, who was murdered by his brother Claudius, for advice. Hamlet would look into space “talking with dad” who appears in a white sheet haunting his son.

Ophelia says it best, “This family so f***ed up.” Next up, is the equally tragic Romeo and Juliet (Cecil Jennings and Amelia Vargas). When asked about their ages, Juliette said with pride she’s 13½. The other couples laugh at how young she is and the baby couple of the group are too young to experience real love. Her man comes in to save her from others.  That said, they all fall heavy for each other and that’s not fake.

Worried couple looks off-camera.Love can make a person go nuts, when pushed to it, especially if they believe their better half isn’t loyal. Othello (wonderfully played by Brandon Foxworth) fears that his beloved Desdemona (Mary Elisabeth Somers) seeks comfort in another man’s arms. In Dr. Cataldo’s office Desdemona’s companion, Emilia (Ashely Taylor) comes in between the couple. Desdemona truly loves Othello, but, feels that he has changed. He is incensed, loud and hurt by these vicious rumors of infidelity.

Another “fun” couple to watch heading for disaster are Petruchio and Katerina, goes by Kate (Bill Sehres and Anne Leyden) from The Taming of the Shrew. It’s a marvel how these two have lasted. They both hurl insults at one another with ease and confidence. If he says the sky is blue, she agrees. Then he tells her the sky isn’t blue but purple. You get the idea. He tries to confuse her in a rapid-fire moment until she’s tired of his nonsense. They wear each other out, but, still continue. It’s hard to tell if argumentative couple Petruchio and Katherina, (Bill Sehres and Anne Leyden) are in love. They argue when they arrive at the doctor’s office, and continue all night through. They have worked out their verbal sparring to the last word. Which is the goal for each but no one wins. They talk separately and in unison. Like the Macbeths, Kate and Petruchio truly deserve each other.

The last couple to enter are a deranged and entertaining Scottish couple, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Joe Nassi and Barbara Mallory). They make the previous couples look like saints.  Couple sticks their tongues out at each other.They are constantly showered in sadness and misery. Hell! Even saying “Macbeth” in a theatre is a sin. The couple truly deserve each other. Lady Macbeth constantly rubs her hand to get rid of an invisible spot. After the Thane of Cawdor kills King Duncan, Lady Macbeth cleans up the mess with her hands. In her guilt, she claims that the bloody spot refuses to go away. The awful memory stays in her fragile mind which, eventually leads to her death. Lysander was right. Love is anything but smooth. It’s energetic but exhausting. Worthy but difficult to maintain. If it was easy, a lot of therapists would be out of business. Writer Lloyd J. Schwartz effortlessly manages to make these fictional characters authentic and real. Emotionally, they reach many hearts along with a few chuckles.

Classic Couples Counseling, plays at Theatre West, located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd., in Los Angeles, plays this weekend, Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. and ends Sunday (Mother’s Day) May 8th. Tickets available

Covid policy is that the audience is vaccinated and masked at all times for the performance.