New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

New York City Theater

Biltmore Theatre

No wonder Craig Lucas writes about abandonment. Unwanted from the day he was born, the future playwright was adopted at eight months old, an infant trauma that has obviously colored his works. From "Blue Window" to "The Dying Gaul," from "Prelude to a Kiss" to the pioneer AIDS film "Longtime Companion," his individuals must make their way in senseless and confusing worlds.

In his funny yet poignant "Reckless," now on Broadway in a sterling production that features a mature and moving performance by Mary-Louise Parker, Lucas explores such a strange and often cruel world. Motivations and events are inexplicable and survival is chancy at best.

"The past is irrelevant. It's something you wake up from," says Rachel, whose husband takes a contract out on her for some unknown reason. (Well, she smiles a lot and is a bundle of cheer). Rachel's sentiment is contradicted by Lloyd who, with his wife Pooty, takes her in after she escapes through a window two steps ahead of the would-be killer. "The past is something you wake up to," says Lloyd. "It's the nightmare you wake up to every day."

If all this sounds solemn, don't believe it for a second. "Reckless" is as kookily amusing as its heroine. When Rachel says "things happen for a reason," she's echoing every would-be believer. In fact, not only don't things happen for a reason, to try to reason them out is both impossible and wasteful. As one of Rachel's psychiatrists later says, "Things just happen" and the things that happen in the play surprise and startle.

Parker, who won an Emmy for "Angels in America" and a Tony for "Proof," has never been better. Gone are some of the mannerisms that marred prior performances. She's goofy, vulnerable, brave and blissful, illuminating the character's dark and light sides as she goes from a woman who can't keep quiet to one who can't speak at all. We identify with her, root for her and recognize our own fears of the big, bad yet conquerable world.

Under Mark Brokaw's skilled direction, the actors play against easy assumptions, another way of keeping the audience both at bay and on their toes. Rosie Perez, Debra Monk, Michael O'Keefe, Jeremy Shamos, Thomas Sadoski and Olga Merediz never let their characters fall into caricature. Allen Moyer's playful set, Christopher Akerlind's rich lighting and Michael Krass' satiric costumes perfectly reflect the author's skewed vision.

Rachel's adventures - with the mismatched Lloyd and Pooty, with several psychiatrists, on a game show, in an asylum - are themselves her journey. And all the while it's snowing and it's Christmas, a time of hope. Sure, "Santa" is an anagram of "Satan" but life is no one's fault and happiness is elusive. In a land where every state has a town named Springfield, the line between dreams and reality blurs and those who listen will learn.

-- David Rosenberg
Nov. 7, 2004

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