Craig Lucas' play, "Reckless," begins with the startling announcement of his own birth and subsequent abandonment by his mother, who left him in the back seat of a car when he was just a day old.
Just as startling are the events that follow in the creditable Fells -- Point Corner Theatre production of the fine, absurdist work in which Rachel, an abandoned wife and mother of two sons is forced out of her own house on a snowy Christmas Eve.
Her loving husband has put a contract out on her, and she must flee for her life. A philosophical stranger, Lloyd, befriends the poor woman and brings her home to his paraplegic wife, Pooty.
Rachel successfully assumes another identity and discovers her benefactors are not whom they seem to be either. In fact no one is in this very funny and sometimes touching satire on the reckless unpredictability of life and the questionable struggle for survival. Self-deceptions, self-delusions and bizarre secrets abound.
Our heroine, ever into therapy, suffers many shocks and disappointments before completing her nightmare journey of self awareness. In the end she comes full circle and discovers the possibility of true happiness.
This highly sophisticated, wild satire demands sharp, crackling, comedic acting stints from the cast. But this necessary sense of the ridiculous coupled with on-the-edge interpretation is only realized in a few excellent performances, namely, that of William Marcus Runnebaum as the wayward husband, Craig Newell as a hustling game show host, and Diane M. Finlayson as an unscrupulous corporate executive.
Kimberly Lynne is hilarious in several of her six psychiatrist roles.
Maribeth Vogel Eckenrode plays the optimistic Rachel and there are times when she convinces. But this actress misses the point of her character. An incessant fast talker, constantly too cheerful in the face of terrible adversity, Rachel, even when she becomes a derelict, is an endearing soul. Eckenrode lacks the necessary ability to perform high comedy and, thus, the play loses momentum and often flounders.
Miscast in an equally difficult role, William Marcus Runnebaum only scratches the surface of Lloyd, a man haunted by his past and disastrous present.
Director Terry J. Long needs to pick up the pace of this piece and keep it within the perimeters of absurdism and not get bogged down in realistic performances. "Reckless," after all, is but a metaphor commenting on the absurdity of life and death.
Reckless continues at the Fells Point Corner Theatre through April 7.
The Ninth Street Theater of New York City is on stage at the Theatre Project with their "American Puppet Epic," "Home Family God Country Flag," through Sun.
Directed with taste and delightful whimsy by Joanne Schultz, who also participates in the show, the work presents a series of stories based on the cast's family histories covering three generations.
The work is a sweetly charming (and amusing) look at good old fashioned American values established by the immigrants who came to our shores years ago from the "old countries."
Although the tales seem hard to differentiate at times, the exquisite shadow puppet imagery is so impressive that it more than makes up for the lack of continuity. Live performers who are also superb musicians interact with the puppets, and a full size Grandmother figure takes us on a nostalgic sojourn down memory lane.
The only fault we can find with this outstanding presentation is there is too much time between vignettes and some of the live, overly wordy narration could be eliminated.
The wonderful puppets were created by Stephen Kaplin (also a participant). Original music is by Ralph Denzer and Laura Liben (both participants) with text and lyrics by Martin Lucas. The very talented other cast members are: John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Jody Moore, Heidi Broner, Jenny Romaine.
As an added treat, before the main show the cast members deliver a gleeful sociological parody, "The Short History of Oil," in which the American oil "patriarchs" are scathingly taken to task.