‘Couples Therapy’ Connects with Audiences in Other Cities

When “Couples Therapy” premiered a couple years ago, Brandy Johanntges figured it would be a one-time event.

She never would have believed it would still be going three years later.

Johanntges and John Cox star in the comic two-person play, which is now in its third year and growing. “Couples Therapy” has been performed several times in multiple states and has about a dozen more dates on the schedule this year – including a May 11 show at Main Street Theater in Columbiana.

The play was written by Poland native Jason Tarr, who spent years as a stand-up comedian.

And he takes a stand-up approach to theater by completely eliminating the “fourth wall.”

The show is presented as a relationship seminar in a hotel meeting room, with Johanntges and Cox playing counselors who are married to each other. They teach relationship skills to the seminar attendees – the audience – with hilarious results.

Tarr has based the script on actual relationship science, illustrating the differences between the sexes. The actors bring audience members into the construct, asking them questions and soliciting their thoughts.

Johanntges and Cox are the only two people who have ever appeared in the play, but their on-stage chemistry was established years before.

Like any couple, they get into tiffs while presenting the seminar – to the delight of the audience.

Johanntges said they are frequently asked after the show if they are married in real life.

The two had done shows together many times but cemented their teamwork during the 2018 run of the two-person drama “Annapurna” at The Youngstown Playhouse.

“It was a pretty intense play, very serious,” Johanntges said. “And that’s when the bond started. That’s when we knew we were good together.”

The two actors can now communicate with just a look.

“We have an unspoken thing,” Johanntges said. “He is the yin to my yang. He is so calm, and I am not. So, yes, we are acting on stage, but it’s how we are with each other in real life. We ad lib a lot, and people crack up. We have a ball together in real life.”

To get the show off the ground, Tarr contacted Cox, who is also president of The Youngstown Playhouse board of directors. Cox suggested Johanntges for the other role.

The show premiered just before Valentine’s Day 2022 at The Playhouse to a capacity crowd.

“That first time was a huge hit, so we did it again the next year,” Johanntges said. Then Tarr, who is also the director and producer, started booking shows in other cities, including Columbus.

“This year is a litmus test,” she said. “We started in February in Columbus, and it did great, and then Buffalo, which was unbelievable. Then Thomas Hall [in Akron], where we sold out the floor level.”

The show is now in its second leg, which includes stops in North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

While the show’s premiere was synched up with Valentine’s Day, Johanntges said it works any time of year.

“It’s a battle of the sexes kind of thing, and it’s audience interactive,” she said. “Audiences respond to it. They love it. When someone sees it for the first time, they’ll say, ‘That is so true.’ The themes are universal.”

The show does get raunchy at times. But anyone who has ever been “one-half of a couple” will relate to it, Johanntges said.

“It’s based on science” that is baked into the script, she said. “For example, women speak on average 20,000 words per day, while men speak 7,000. And sex also plays into it. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of truth in it.”

Some women have to “drag their guys to it, but they leave saying, ‘That was the greatest thing ever,’” she said.

The show is a fast-paced 90 minutes with no intermission.

Because of the audience interaction, no two performances are exactly alike. “It’s like stand-up comedy,” Johanntges said. “You react to them as they react to you.”

The May 11 performance at Main Street Theater, 5 N. Main St., Columbiana, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $35 and can be purchased in advance HERE.

Pictured at top: Brandy Johanntges and John Cox star in “Couples Therapy,” written and directed by Jason Tarr.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.