‘Couples Therapy’ returns and expands further

“Couples Therapy” returns for more sessions next weekend at Youngstown Playhouse.

The comedy written by Jason Tarr of Poland debuted last year around Valentine’s Day for a sold-out performance at the Playhouse, with John Cox and Brandy Johanntges playing married therapists conducting a seminar.

Their characters were high school sweethearts and both children of divorced parents who reconnect years later at a medical conference.

Tarr worked for years as a standup comedian, getting his start at the original Funny Farm Comedy Club in Liberty, and the idea for the show evolved out of the relationship material that was a big part of his act.

After last year’s success, Tarr is pursuing two different paths with the project.

Cox and Johanntges will reprise their roles for shows Feb. 10 and 11 at the Playhouse with Tarr directing. And the trio takes the show to Marysville the following weekend for performances at The Avalon Theatre on Feb. 17 and 18.

The show audiences will see has been tweaked some since 2022.

“There were some jokes that worked exactly like you thought they would,” Tarr said. “Just like in standup, there are some jokes you know 99 percent of the time, it’s going to hit. And there were some I didn’t anticipate were going to be as funny as they were.”

But there also were some bits that didn’t get the expected reaction, like a scene where the characters explain the workings of the male and female brains. Tarr thought the male brain segment was funnier, but the female brain jokes got the bigger reaction.

No more than 10 percent of the original script was revised, Tarr said. The actors also take questions from the audience, so that element will change from performance to performance.

Last year he also used clips from television and film (HBO’s “Sex and the City,” the Vince Vaughn-Jennifer Aniston comedy “The Break-Up”) to illustrate certain points. This time he filmed segments with Cox and Johanntges to take the place of those clips.

That change was necessary if Tarr wants to continue growing the project. He’s pursuing booking the show in other theaters, like the Marysville dates, where Tarr rents the theater and then is responsible for bringing the performance there and covering all of the expenses.

At the same time, he is looking at licensing agreements, where other professional or community theaters could purchase the rights to stage the production, which is how Youngstown Playhouse does most of its shows.

“I’ve connected with a gentleman down in Florida who has a couple theaters he manages and runs a lot of others theaters in the state,” Tarr said. “He’s picked it up in June for at least Delray Beach and Pompano Beach. They have to stick to the script, but everything else is up to them.”

Those who license the play also will be able to pay an additional fee to use the filmed clips with Cox and Johanntges, although Tarr said he believes the show would work best if a theater shot their own footage with the actors who are playing the roles.

While Tarr tries to expand the show’s reach, he also hopes it becomes an annual tradition in the Mahoning Valley.

“They’re holding a 2024 date for us at (DeYor Performing Arts Center’s) Ford theater,” Tarr said. “If we get the same response, if we’re sold out or close to it for both shows, we’ll move it over to the Ford next year.”

If you go …

WHAT: “Couples Therapy”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 and 11

WHERE: Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $22 to $32 and are available online at experienceyourarts.org and by calling 330-788-8739.


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