A little bit of sugar, Mary Poppins tells us, makes the medicine go down. What if that medicine is already a pill made of sugar? In short, a placebo meant to lull us into feeling better while offering no real health benefit.
The pills in Melissa James Gibson’s new comedy, Placebo, at Playwrights Horizons, under Daniel Aukin’s direction, awaiting an opening on March 16th, are less medicinal and more titillating. Her heroine. Louise, (Carrie Coon) is working on an arousal drug for women, kind of a Cialis for the gentler sex.
Placebo is defined in my Google search as “a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect.” Sugar pills like these are used in medical testing to help determine the value of a new drug. The “placebo effect” is famously one in which the patient is cured despite the fact that the drug being used in the cure is nothing but one of these harmless little substitutes for the real medicine.
Not so long ago, Kate Fodor’s comic “Rx”
envisioned a more general kind of medical experimentation. Her pill-popping protagonists develop cures for ennui. Unhappy with with your job? Take 2 at bedtime and wake up in the a.m. ready to go to work. (See T and B’s review here.)
Sharr White’s “The Other Place” took a darker turn. In twists of coincidence, her heroine, played by Laura Metcalf in the original off-Bway MCC production, and in its transfer to MTC’s Broadway house, suffers the indignities of neurological disease while developing its cures. (A review of the off-Broadway version at VevlynsPen.com can be found here, while the Broadway iteration is reviewed here.)
For more information about Melissa James Gibson’s “Placebo,” please visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/placebo/