note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Sheila Barth
While ballet companies are performing their holiday productions of “The Nutcracker,” and several theaters are presenting their version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Speakeasy Theatre Co. has gone out on a limb, bringing prolific playwright Craig Lucas’ hit 90-minute, one-act Broadway holiday dark comedy,“Reckless,” to its stage, making its Boston professional premiere through December 12, with an all-star Boston cast.
Lucas, a Boston University graduate who was abandoned at birth by his mother in a car in Atlanta, Ga. and adopted at 10 months old by an FBI agent and his wife, writes about loss and abandonment. “Reckless,” which he started writing in 1982 and finished in 1988, is a bizarre fable of loss and found that’s too absurd to be believed. The play enjoyed tremendous success, though, initially on Broadway with star Mary-Louise Parker in 2004 and as a movie starring Mia Farrow in 1995.
In Speakeasy’s production, although the one-act bittersweet play bordering on absurdity is over-the-top, the cast, stage effects and props are noteworthy, keeping the audience wondering from one minute to the next, then, at the end, wondering why they’re so transfixed. Part of the answer rests with this cast’s fine acting, including indomitable Lynn native, Paula Plum, directed by talented Scott Edmiston.
Set designer Cristina Todesco creates a combination of dreamlike, topsy-turvy, realistic sets, with three doors of different sizes and glittery trees as backdrops, and stark bedrooms, wacky game show sets, and a gloomy office in the foreground. Charles Schoonmaker’s costumes are basic, yet bizarre, reflecting the scenes and characters’ personalities; Karen Perlow’s lighting adds dramatic effects, and Dewey Dellay’s sound and original music designs are effective throughout.
While Lucas’ tale blends fantasy with reality, we question whether we’re watching a dream sequence. The story is too weird to be true and subsequent events become increasingly hyperbolic, almost like a trancelike state of insanity or nightmare. This wacky mystery that makes “Twilight Zone” look tame also evokes questions throughout.
In the opening scene, Rachel, mother of two small boys, is in a state of “high euphoria” on Christmas Eve, almost manic, until her husband Tom tells her he took out a contract on her life, and her assassin is coming in five minutes. He says he regrets his decision to have her killed and that she must escape immediately, as the assassin is breaking through the door. We don’t know what motivated Tom’s drastic decision.
Poor Rachel ends up in her nightgown on the street at a gas station pay phone, calling her next door neighbor, who thinks she’s joking. A strange-acting good Samaritan named Lloyd who stopped to buy gas at the closed station, offers Rachel a ride and takes her in, thus beginning Rachel’s long, twisted journey on the run, from seeking refuge to being sought, from losing and finding herself, and the several characters she encounters along the way, who ultimately restore her life. The characters and story eventually all come together, but under surrealistic circumstances and an incredulous ending.
Marianna Bassham as Rachel is believable during her metamorphoses, and Kerry A. Dowling as pseudo deaf mute, paraplegic Pooty; Sandra Heffley in three roles; Larry Coen as Rachel’s savior, Lloyd; Barlow Adamson as Tom; rising star Karl Baker Olsen portraying a few characters; and Will McGarrahan in four roles, are outstanding --- but Paula Plum steals the spotlight in her multiple roles as psychiatrists.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute dark comedy, written by Craig Lucas. Performances at Speakeasy Theatre Co., the Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston’s South End, are Wednesday, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m., with additional performances on Tuesday, Nov. 24 and Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m.; no show Thanksgiving. Tickets, $47,$50; students,seniors, $42,$45; gallery seats, $30; student rush with valid ID, $14 an hour before the show at the Box Office, if available. Reservations, call 617-933-8600 or visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com.