BEIRUT: From the opening scenes of Marcel Ghosn’s “PSY – Carlos’ Trip,” the character of Dr. Raad is that of a cruel opportunist. When his patient Grace (Jamal Fayad) comes into his office weeping because she can’t forget her long lost son, the psychiatrist summarily hands over a prescription for a different medication and dismisses her, saying he’s too busy to talk to her.
Such brusque consultation is expensive, however, and Raad (Ghosn himself) follows his patient to the door of his clinic, reminding her of his fees.
Not only is he insensitive to patients’ misery, he’s also mean to Charlotte (Kim el-Kehdy), his secretary of the past nine years, who has dreams of attaining fame and fortune by performing childish songs for a mass audience.
Whenever she starts singing or dancing in the office, Raad tells Charlotte she’s delusional and prescribes some drugs for her – deducting his consultation fees and the cost of the drugs from her meager monthly salary.
When Charlotte phones to tell the doctor about what she describes as a once-in-a-lifetime casting opportunity, he does not hesitate to hang up on her.
Psychiatric drama appears to be the latest thing on the Beirut theater scene. “Majnoun Yehki” (A Crazy Man Speaks), Lina Khoury’s adaptation of a Tom Stoppard play, enjoyed a successful six-week run at Masrah al-Madina late last year. More recently at the Gemmayzeh Theater, comedian, playwright and director Joe Kodeih staged his politically inflected “Michel and Samir,” a pop theater lampoon of the Lebanese political system.
First staged in 2013, “PSY” is an adaptation of the French comic play “Une Folie” by dramatist Sasha Guitry. It proved so popular that Ghosn decided to rework his original adaptation, expanding the plot and the cast of characters to make it a more labyrinthine thing.
Raad, who is preparing for the release of his new book, receives a surprise visit from a peculiar couple seeking psychiatric help.
With a long beard, an elaborate moustache and a virile, manly attitude, Captain Carlos (Tino Karam) faces a major obstacle with his wife (Lara Rain): They no longer feel pleasure during their cruises – a metaphor for sexual intercourse.
Madame Carlos laments that she has tried everything to please her husband, from eyelash extensions to high heels and breast-augmentation surgery, followed by breast reduction surgery – to settle on the dimensions to satisfy the captain’s whims.
None of these measures seems to work. She hints that her husband is impotent. “The boat’s engine is malfunctioning,” she tells the doctor, “and cannot endure long cruises.”
Only when the captain leaves the office to retrieve something is she able to explain the real situation, telling the doctor he must treat her husband, but without confronting him with the truth of his impotence.
The three characters must speak in nautical terms, she says, because Carlos lives in such denial that were things said as they are, he could easily become furious, pull out his gun and kill them all.
Despite these threats, the devious, womanizing doctor is drawn to the lustful Mme. Carlos and he decides to seduce her through hypnosis.
Afterward, it begins to emerge that the victim here isn’t the manipulative Mme. Carlos, but her husband.
Captain Carlos actually died on a sea journey, some years before. Unable to come to terms with the loss of her lover, Mme. Carlos kidnapped a young man named Maurice and forced him into the captain’s nautical character and costume.
One disclosure leads to another. Not only has Mme. Carlos been deceiving the world about her husband, Raad turns out to be an unlicensed fraud. It’s then revealed that Maurice/Captain Carlos is actually the long lost son of Grace – the weepy patient introduced early in the play.
“PSY – Carlo’s Trip” is an amusing popular comedy.
Like many of foreign plays adapted for the Beirut stage, “PSY” folds in several details about the Lebanese condition, making it more accessible to the audience. Although abundant, the sexual innuendos are not so exaggerated as to be repulsive, but are an integral part of the play.
The characters’ costuming is skillfully designed. The set design – not least the large framed photo of the solipsistic Raad – and the lighting provide an appropriately clinical setting for the comedy.
Most important are the fine performances. Tino Karam, who is well known locally for his characters in TV ads for the Buzz non-alcoholic drink, is particularly fine as the captive Carlos.
“PSY – Carlos’ Trip” runs Thursday to Sunday at 8 p.m. in Le Theatre Beryte at USJ.