Group: Clayton Community Theatre
Venue: Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
Dates: February 4, 5, 6
Tickets: $12-$15; contact 314-721-9228 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Story: Rachel looks forward every year to the magical time of Christmas. She’s ecstatic about the season, the gift-giving and the good times she’s always associated with that “most wonderful time of the year,” and revels in delighting her two young sons. So, she’s understandably annoyed when her unresponsive husband Tom suddenly blurts out on Christmas Eve that he’s put out a contract on her life and that she has just five minutes to escape through a living room window.
Just like that, Rachel’s life is turned upside down. Still in her nightgown and slippers, she hooks up with an amiable man named Lloyd at a truck stop, who soon invites her to spend the holiday with him and his deaf, paraplegic girlfriend Pooty. Rachel soon discovers that Pooty is neither deaf nor paraplegic, but feigns both because Lloyd is so attentive to her. It turns out that Lloyd has a dark past, though, which comes into play later in Rachel’s odyssey, as does the job Lloyd arranges for her at Hands Across the Sea (HATS), the non-profit organization where he works. Surly co-workers, an improbable game show appearance, several misguided therapists and a stint in a homeless shelter all shape Rachel’s future in ways she never imagined on that fateful Christmas Eve.
Highlights: This dark comedy written by playwright Craig Lucas in 1983 is celebrating a renaissance of sorts locally, with an earlier production performed just last month by NonProphet Theatre Company. While that incarnation was more polished and cleverly executed by the professional NonProphets, the current presentation by Clayton Community Theatre garners its own praise with the whimsical, carefree approach taken by director Judy Yordon. Combined with the winning talent of Lara Buck as the ever optimistic Rachel and a supporting cast that is more often successful than not, CCT’s interpretation of Lucas’ quixotic fable provides enough entertainment to offset its lapses in execution.
Other Info: Yordon utilizes some clever design work by Kathy Diehl (video), Dave Ogden (fly system) and her own utilitarian set design comprised primarily of several square blocks that double as a bed, a Christmas tree stand or whatnot to give the presentation the desired fantasy effect.
Jean Heckmann’s costumes are most noteworthy in the garish and gaudy game show scene, with host Mark Abels alone worth the price of admission for his tawdry tie and painfully mismatched wardrobe. Tom Bell contributes a suitably tacky soundtrack with perhaps the worst Christmas song ‘covers’ ever recorded, while Nathan Schroeder adds quaint lighting to illustrate the bizarre goings-on.
Buck anchors the proceedings with a convincing performance that maintains Rachel’s surprisingly tough personae, emphasizing her covert survival instincts as well as her open approach to the unknown. Diehl is entertaining as the mysterious Pooty, while Abels is smooth in several supporting roles, most notably the smarmy talk show host. Erin Vlasaty delivers a nice bit as the show’s goofy Cupid figure, and Lauren Rubin is splendid as Rachel’s unpleasant co-worker Trish and a tough-talking author on the talk show circuit.
Jeffrey Dent, whose done better work before such as in a recent production of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” is OK as Lloyd, although he doesn’t seem to mesh as well as possible with either Buck or Diehl. Brad Kinzel is fine as young Tom and also is a hoot as an overly exuberant game show contestant wannabe, but falters in a weak approach as Rachel’s husband. Jeanne Harvey and Ann Egenriether are satisfactory as Rachel’s myriad dysfunctional therapists and Chuck Short has a small part as a security guard.
Despite too many overly long transitions between scenes and the uneven pacing in Yordon’s production, this “Reckless” generally succeeds by taking risks that work more often than not under the director’s dedicated guidance.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.