Have Yourself a Merry Little Death Wish with ‘Reckless’ at Theater Schmeater

Think twice before complaining about the holidays this year. There may be bad food, long lines and cranky in-laws, but chances are someone hasn’t taken out a hit on your life, like in Reckless. In Theater Schmeater’s production of this aptly...

Think twice before complaining about the holidays this year. There may be bad food, long lines and cranky in-laws, but chances are someone hasn’t taken out a hit on your life, like in Reckless

In Theater Schmeater’s production of this aptly named play written by Craig Lucas, disillusioned housewife Rachel faces the ruin of her favorite season, her family and her naively optimistic worldview. More than another schmaltzy Christmas production, Reckless is a dark comedy that follows one woman on a journey of self-discovery where the darkest winter months can’t dim the altruism of the holiday spirit.

It is Christmas Eve. After tucking her two sons into bed, Rachel (Alyssa Keene) is informed by her husband Tom (Matthew Middleton) that he’s hired a hit man to kill her. Glass shatters downstairs as the hit man breaks through a window and Rachel’s husband shoves her out the window, leaving her with nowhere to go. While using the phone at a gas station, the lost housewife meets benevolent Lloyd (Carter Rodriquez) who offers her a ride. Throwing her usual caution to the wind, Rachel crawls into the car and unleashes a fast-paced nostalgic rant about her life. Just when you’re ready to write her off as completely out of touch with reality, she asks: “Do we ever really know people?”

In Reckless, we don’t. Rachel takes on an assumed identity, and Lloyd invites her to stay with him and his deaf, paraplegic wife Pooty (convincingly played by Megan Ahiers). A one-night stay turns into a permanent living situation, and as time passes everyone reveals personal secrets, and ghosts of Christmas past return to haunt the fugitive Rachel. After another series of outrageous incidents, including a hilarious appearance by the trio on the television game show “Your Mother or Your Wife,” Rachel turns up in a homeless shelter, persistently silent for the first time in the play. In order to regain her voice, she must confront the past and make strides towards a brighter future.

The black-box space and minimal, cartoonish set designed by Michael Mowery (bright blue walls, white painted snowflakes, a bed that doubles as a car) emphasize the surreal, cyclical nature of coincidental events. As Rachel and Lloyd journey to a number of towns named Springfield, everything on the stage stays the same, suggesting that despite their desperate attempts to flee, they aren’t really getting anywhere. Director Carol Roscoe takes advantage of the limited space by successfully using the characters to reflect their surroundings rather than overcrowding the stage with props or scenery—Rachel’s descent into desperate paranoia as she drives across the country (with Lloyd sitting catatonic in the passenger seat clutching a bag of money) subtly captures the desolation and endlessness of a Midwest winter landscape.

Along with dark underpinnings of murder and deceit, Reckless‘ humor addresses serious topics such as death and violence. Lucas makes them less scary, but no less real. As Rachel and Lloyd catapult through their lives, they face cold realities with relentless optimism, each one reaching his or her lowest point when that optimism finally wanes. For Rachel this includes the loss of her voice which, up until that point, is her strongest attribute. Reckless is interested in voice, both literal and metaphorical. By juxtaposing Pooty and Rachel, Lucas investigates what it means to have a voice and lose it, suggesting that the loss of home, family and security might be unfortunate, but the loss of voice leaves us with nothing at all.

Reckless runs at Theatre Schmeater through December 17.