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Odd quest for argyle sparks Interplayers’ ‘Sexualis’ adventure

The title sounds risque enough – “Psychopathia Sexualis” – but Interplayers director Reed McColm has issued the following disclaimer:

“It’s not about sex. It’s about socks.”

Well, maybe both, but argyle socks are key to the plot.

This 1996 comedy by John Patrick Shanley is about a man named Arthur undergoing psychotherapy for an embarrassing condition: He cannot perform sexually unless he is in sight of his father’s argyle socks.

Hey, it could happen.

The comedic conflict arises when Arthur’s therapist, the not-terribly-sympathetic Dr. Block, steals those socks and hides them. Right before Arthur’s wedding.

Complications ensue.

Does this love-and-socks story end well? We’ll find out when the play opens with a preview tonight.

Yet keep in mind that Shanley is well-known for providing happy endings to his romantic comedies, as in “Moonstruck.” He won an Oscar for “Moonstruck” and a Pulitzer for “Doubt: A Parable.”

“He sets up hopelessly complicated, potentially explosive situations and then defuses them into sentimental triumph,” New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote after the play’s off-Broadway premiere.

Critics have compared it to early Woody Allen, with its neurosis-based comedy. The title, by the way, is a nod to the landmark 1886 Krafft-Ebing book, which detailed various sexual neuroses.

Brantley called it an “addled tale of two couples in which love conquers through compromises.”

One couple consists of Arthur and his fiancé Lucille, an outspoken Texan described in the play as a “hillbilly Aztec Evita.” The second couple is the older, smoother Howard, who is Arthur’s best friend, and his gossipy wife, Ellie.

They are enlisted in the comic attempt to retrieve those socks before the wedding day. It does not go smoothly.

McColm directs a cast of five: Dan Anderson as Arthur, Caryn Hoagland-Trevett as Lucille, Damon Abdallah as Howard, Bethany Hart as Ellie and John Hart as Dr. Block.

A talkback session between the cast and audience members will be held following next Wednesday’s performance.

This is the final Interplayers play of the season, and the second by Shanley. Interplayers did “Doubt: A Parable” last fall.