Published in Gay and Lesbian Times December 19, 2002
It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are all wrapped and the children are tucked into bed. Rachel is feeling all warm and fuzzy, looking out at the snow, reminiscing about Christmases past. She’s about to have a “euphoria attack.” And then, her husband confesses that he’s hired a hit-man, taken out a contract on her life, and she’s got five minutes to escape. She thinks he’s kidding until she hears the breaking glass downstairs and scrambles out the window in her nightgown and slippers. Thus begins the oddball odyssey that is “Reckless,” Craig Lucas’ 1983 acid-laced holiday confection. It’s a cruel farce, really, about identity and the victims of circumstance. About how our appearance to others may have nothing to do with who we really are. About no matter how completely anyone — lover, friend, spouse, therapist — thinks they know us, there’s always something concealed.
Lucas likes to straddle the line between fantasy and reality. In “Prelude to a Kiss,” an old man and a young newly-married woman switch bodies. Here, a woman who thought she had it all has nothing, and has to find herself; ultimately, this wide-eyed naif takes refuge in Alaska, where it’s always Christmas. But on the way, she has many a bizarre experience with a raft of eccentrics, including six ‘psycho’ therapists. It’s never quite clear if what we’re seeing is really happening or is part of Rachel’s conscious (or sub-conscious) imaginings. And that’s the delicious fun of it. Every time you think you know what’s going to happen next, Lucas snaps your neck into a whiplash, hairpin turn of events. It’s a wild ride, and pretty much fun most of the time, though it does get a bit preachy. Yet there’s a legitimate holiday message buried within. “A lot of people want to help save the whales,” one shrink says. “But tell them they can help save a human being.”
The 6th @ Penn production just about nails the absurd, farcical tone of the quirky piece. Director Kevin Burk keeps the pace lively, though a bit less scene-changing would make the evening fly at its intended break-neck speed. Burk has amassed a delightfully droll, chameleon cast. It’s great to see the peripatetic Rick Stevens back onstage. He’s hilarious as Lloyd, the rugged guy with a heart of gold, who, like his deaf, paraplegic wife (lovely, animated René Peña), is not as saintly as he seems. Both have haunted pasts, offbeat secrets and questionable motives. Stevens spends half the show in a Santa suit, with just his eyes communicating his passion and pain. Robin Christ is amusing as the series of six shrinks Rachel consults, but perhaps intentionally (though less humorously), they become rather interchangeable. Celeste Innocenti makes the most dramatic transformations — from dowdy office frump to game-show ‘Vanna’ to derelict and mental patient. She’s a hoot. Al Myers is fine in several roles. But it’s ultimately Lisel Gorell-Getz who centers and carries the show. She has the adorable, ingenuous perkiness of Meg Ryan, and she makes us laugh and cry at her perverse and other-worldly adventures. Dreams, as well as personality traits, seem to be mutable in her upside-down world, which darkly and comically demonstrates that life is often impelled by the vagaries of an ironic, fickle fate.
“RECKLESS” runs through January 5 at 6th @ Penn Theatre in Hillcrest; 619-688-9210.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc.