Culture Vulture: A “Reckless” Diversion at SpeakEasy Stage

By Helen Epstein

Reckless by Graig Lucas. Directed by Scott Edmiston. Presented by the SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts through December 12, 2009.

Norton Award-winners Larry Coen and Marianna Bassham in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of RECKLESS.

Norton Award-winners Larry Coen and Marianna Bassham in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of RECKLESS.

Just in case you haven’t noticed it’s edging on toward Christmas, the SpeakEasy Stage Company unwraps “Reckless,” a bauble of a revival by playwright Craig Lucas, whose work for stage and screen includes “The Light in the Piazza,” “Longtime Companion” and “Prelude to a Kiss.”

“Reckless” is a “dark comedy” first staged in 1985, made into a feature film starring Mia Farrow ten years later, and finally produced in New York in 2004. Slickly staged and acted by an exuberant and expert company who convey their delight in every outrageous scene, this is a play that entertains even as it takes aim at the hypocrisies of the
holiday season.

A contemporary adaptation of “Candide” crossed with “Alice in Wonderland,” “Reckless” starts out on Christmas Eve with Rachel, its manic housewife heroine with logorrhea, being warned by her husband Tom that he has taken out a
contract on her life and that, if she wants to live, she’d better get out — NOW.

“That is the sickest joke,” Rachel declares but, in the fashion of the housewife stereotyped by mainstream gay playwrights — much as sensitive gay men were once stereotyped by straight mainstream playwrights — she follows her desperate husband’s advice and, wearing only her flowered flannel nightgown, exits via the window.

She enters a world where no one is safe from a send-up of political correctness — not homeless people, talk show hosts, criminals, paraplegics, psychotherapists, heads of NGOs — not even deaf mutes. As she makes her way from Springfield, MA to a succession of other Springfields in this best of all possible nations, Rachel finds that life has indeed been “reckless” with many of the people she meets and that they have responded in a variety ofways.

The company of local actors is terrific although Marianna Bassham as Rachel could trust her lines more and attenuate her acting a notch –her Rachel is so irritating that she runs the risk of driving her audience out of the theater as well as her husband to murder and her rescuer to drink. On the other hand, Larry Coen and Kerry A Dowling were entirely convincing in their loopy roles and I especially liked Paula Plum’s witty succession of physicians and psychotherapists.

The sets and costumes are zany and wonderful; the music, evocative; the lighting, enhancing; and the direction smart and elegant. If you’re looking for a light, diverting evening or afternoon of theater, this is it.

Helen Epstein is the author of “Joe Papp: An American Life.”

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