By Victoria L. Dammer

When does the intimate and fragile bond between a therapist and a patient cross the blurry line of professional boundaries once each participant spends years of therapy together and bares their souls?

Therapist Diane, played by 5-time Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe winner Jill Eikenberry, and patient Claire, played by Ella Dershowitz, engage as the two protagonists in Julia Blauvelt’s absorbing yet sad emotional tale The Two Hander.

Diane has an unconventional style of her own, plagued by an old apartment and its contents that continually breaks down, eventually becoming the metaphor for her life. Her unseen landlord enforces her neurosis even further, never quite fixing the broken air conditioner or heater or whatever else Diane calls him to repair.

Claire hesitantly enters the therapy office while Diane is on a rant, questioning whether she should come back next week, but both eventually settle in, and the therapy begins. Both characters reveal their vulnerabilities to each other, leaving the audience to contemplate who is helping whom. At some point, roles switch as Claire gains confidence and Diane becomes consumed by her own anxious existence. It is a teeter-totter back and forth, as most of us would agree adult relationships often are.

Patients bare their souls to their therapist once there is trust, even deeper than lovers do, and Claire improves her life as a result. Where she was once unemployed, she gets a job in a field she loves. She has confidence and enjoyment in her life, thanks to Diane’s mentoring and words of strength. But happiness and stability are fleeting for both characters.

Claire and Diane spend months apart, and when Claire returns to Diane’s deteriorating apartment once again, she receives a startling admission from the women she thought she admired and knew. The outcome of their last discussion will shock you with its thought-provoking and unforeseen twist.

This was the 155th World premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company, and Executive Producer Gabor Barabas had welcomed guests earlier to what he called “a communal gathering.” The Two Hander gathered an audience together, all of whom clapped in unison at the end of an emotional performance by two talented actors.

The Two Hander, written by Julia Blauvelt, Directed by SuzAnne Barabas

WITH Jill Eikenberry and Ella Dershowitz

At the New Jersey Repertory Company through May 19. . The running time is approximately 105 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

New Jersey Repertory Company is located at 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey.