Sam Bobrick’s The Psychic, at The Falcon Theatre, is a devilishly clever comedy/mystery with a hilarious first act and an even better second one that takes on an added layer of brilliance half-way through.

It starts out cute … and funny, as we meet Adam Webster (Jeffrey Cannata), your friendly, next-door, basement apartment psychic, or is he?  Adam’s crayoned window sign promises “Psychic Readings $25,” but his penciled business cards are hardly designed to inspire confidence.  Adam tells his very first client, the beautiful Laura Benson (Dana Green), that he’s been “blessed with this gift for some time,” but when asked to intuit things about her life (basic info such as whether she’s married or single), he strikes out.  Three wrong guesses in a row. No, make that four.  “Keep going,” Laura encourages him. “You’re bound to get something right.” Alas, he doesn’t.

 “This was a stupid idea from the start,” moans the wannabe psychic, who turns out to be just an aspiring mystery writer trying to make this month’s rent.  Never mind that, says Laura. Maybe he could help her solve her current conundrum—whether or not to travel with her husband to Paris.

Adam is about to give her his two cents’ worth when he suddenly finds himself blurting out, “Your husband’s trying to kill you!” Is this unexpected warning a true psychic prediction, or simply an idea for his next mystery novel that just popped into his head?  Adam tells Laura to forget everything he said.  “It meant nothing. I’m no psychic.” “Maybe you are!” his client counters, and before leaving, takes ten of his hand-printed business cards to give out to friends.


Who should show up next at Adam’s basement flat but a very ticked-off Roy Benson (Cyrus Alexander)?  “How could you tell my wife I was planning to kill her?” he demands, and then begins pressing Adam to predict exactlyhow he’s going to bump her off, and why.  Adam starts to sense that Roy is asking, not for psychic predictions, but for murder tips.  Not at all, Roy asserts.  “I love Rita with all my heart!” Rita?  Who the heck is Rita? 

There’s no need for psychic powers to guess the answer to that one.  Now the only thing remaining for Adam to figure out is just why Roy is planning to off his wife.  Could it be that he has gambling debts and that Laura’s demise would mean the end to his money troubles?  Roy is already at the door when Adam blurts out, “Oh, by the way, you’re not the only one Rita is sleeping with.” Now where did that come from?  “I believe I’m turning into a troublemaker,” Adam remarks. (And an authentic psychic as well?) 

Next to show up at Adam’s door is dumb blonde Rita (Bridget Flanery), followed by Johnny Bubbles (Richard Horvitz), the gangster type she’s been cheating on a cheater with.  

Meanwhile romantic sparks begin to ignite between Adam and Laura.  If only there weren’t a $2 million double indemnity insurance policy on her life which could make a murderous husband a rich man, or at least pay off his gambling debts. Then again, Laura informs Adam, “The policy works both ways. If anything happened to Roy, I’dget all the money.”


The Psychic bills itself as “a murder mystery … of sorts,” and it more than sort of is, but as to exactly who turns up dead with one of Adam’s business cards clutched in his or her hands … Well, for that you’re just going to have to see The Psychic, something which any lover of the comedy-mystery genre should do posthaste.

Credit for The Psychic’s ingenious plot twists and hilarious dialog goes to playwright Bobrick, creator of TV’s Saved By The Bell, and co-author (with Ron Clark) of a quartet of Broadway comedies, beginning with 1970’s Norman, Is That You?  (He’s also written or co-written another thirty or so plays, plus TV shows too numerous to count.)  Following Thursday’s performance, Bobrick told this reviewer that of all the productions he’s seen of his three dozen plays, the talented ensemble assembled at the Falcon is the best ever.  High praise indeed, but an entirely credible assertion, given the all-around splendid cast assembled here, directed to comic perfection by Susan Morgenstern.

Cannata couldn’t be better as Adam, combining the looks and presence of a sitcom lead with great comedic chops and timing. Green evokes those glamorous, mysterious film noir sirens of years past, and ditto for her comedic chops and timing.  That the two have great chemistry is icing on the cake.

As is so often the case in this type of comedy, it’s the supporting players that get the zingiest roles, beginning with the gifted Alexander, who shows us so many things going on inside Roy’s head that you can’t take your eyes off of him.  Flanery is versatility personified, her terrifically fresh new spin on the classic blonde bimbo about as different from her plain Jane Lizzie in the Rainmaker and her deliciously bitchy Katherina in The Taming Of The Shrew as day is to night, or vice versa. In an absolutely delicious performance, Horvitz steals every scene he’s in as a kind of James Cagney on speed.  Completing the cast is the marvelous Phil Proctor as a romance novel-loving police detective named Norris Coslow, whose cell phone rings to the strains of “It’s Now Or Never” (or “O Sole Mio,” if you prefer).

For about three-quarters of The Psychic, theatergoers bent on accentuating the negative may find themselves complaining that Bobrick’s supporting characters are movie stereotypes with little bearing on real life. (No matter how funny they are, it’s probably true.) Then there’s the matter of Laura’s pale blue suit, which she never changes? Couldn’t the costume designer have found another outfit for her?  Didn’t the director notice something amiss? Was the Falcon unable to come up with the cash for a change of clothing?

The brilliant thing about The Psychic is that Bobrick takes all these naysayers’ objections—and makes those nit-pickers throw them out the window, as previously stated, smack dab in the middle of the second act.  At the realization of just what the playwright has up his sleeve, you may find yourself, as this reviewer did, wanting to stand up and cheer.

Joanie Coyote’s costumes choices are terrific ones, including that one pale blue women’s suit.  Recent Ovation and LADCC Award-winning scenic designer Jeff McLaughlin’s basement apartment set is suitably grungy—and beautifully detailed, courtesy of prop designer Anna McGill. Nick McCord’s lighting is as good as it gets. (Watch how the subtle dimming of the lights adds to the edge-of-your-seat excitement at a character’s chase scene description.)  David Beaudry’s sound design is a perfect fit for a mystery comedy.  Deirdre Murphy serves as production stage manager.

The Psychic concludes The Falcon Theatre’s 2009-2010 season on a high note of mystery, surprise plot twists, and all-around hilarity.  It’s one of the best original comedies I’ve seen at a theater which has debuted quite a few. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love it!

Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.
–Steven Stanley
April 1, 2010

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