nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
December 8, 2011
This month The Gallery Players is presenting Craig Lucas’s dark and looney Christmas play Reckless. Director Heather Siobhan Curran delivers up Reckless at the high level of professional entertainment typical of TGP. The protagonist Rachel (a Christmas-loving chatterbox) begins the play on Christmas Eve overflowing with holiday cheer and strong faith that everything happens for a reason. Then her remorseful husband tells her to get out of the house because he’s hired a hit-man to have her killed and he’s due to arrive any minute. So she jumps out the window and runs away in her bathrobe to start a new life.
Reeling from trauma and frantically wondering if it’s ever possible to really know someone, she changes her name and is taken in by Lloyd and Pooty. Lloyd and Pooty are in love and work together at a charitable organization that helps people who are physically-challenged—Pooty herself is a hearing-impaired paraplegic. But it turns out they are both hiding big secrets too. In fact throughout the play the many doctors, social workers and do-gooders that Rachel meets have all entered their philanthropic fields to atone for some terrible crime or betrayal they’ve committed in the past. At one point a TV interview with a shelter describes the unfortunate residents of the shelter as those with whom life has been reckless. Rachel eventually realizes that things don’t always happen for a reason after all, sometimes they just happen… as bizarre tragedies follow Rachel at Christmastime year after year.
Lest I make this show sound like a big downer, let me make clear that this is a zany, funny world. The twisted plot involves an absurd TV game show and an equally absurd talk show. The characters include a clueless boss, a monosyllabic-life-hating-secretary and crazy homeless people. There are also six wacky psychologists (all played by Allison Moody). The characters sport more tacky Christmas sweaters than I have ever seen in one place (costumes by Kristina Sneshkoff). I also particularly loved the beautiful, playful, non-realistic set featuring out-of-scale houses lit up for Christmas on snowdrifts (designed by Jason Sherwood). When people drive a car in this play, they sit on a bench together with one person holding a steering wheel.
Carey Van Driest as Rachel is wonderful. Whether she’s nervously running at the mouth or shocked silent in grief she is always believable and holds the whole play together with ease. The one-scene-characters are played very broadly as caricatures. Although this is not intended to be a realistic world, there were scenes in which I had wished the performers had been pulled back a little bit. I wish that the production as a whole had trusted the absurdity of the scenes themselves to do more of the work for them. But the actors are clearly having a ball and the play is a whole is a lot of fun.
There are a lot of Christmas traditions out there. As an alternative to cheesier holiday fare, Reckless offers up generous portions of humor, senseless violence and gratuitous love. The play is also full of plot twists and surprises. However, it was no surprise to me that The Gallery Players continues their tradition of high-quality theatrical productions that are worth the trip to Brooklyn.