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'Reckless' offers funny, bizarre holiday comedy

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Live Theatre Workshop

'Reckless' offers funny, bizarre holiday comedy

Play doesn’t defy logic as much as embrace the surreal

“Reckless” is an unusual holiday treat. Unlike the usual gooey-sweet fare, this Live Theatre Workshop production is more like an odd-shaped dark chocolate confection – not particularly sweet, more than a little bitter and very dark, indeed.

“Reckless” is nominally holiday-themed in that it begins on a Christmas Eve and proceeds relentlessly to holiday moments over multiple years. Rachel (Rhonda Hallquist), an effusive housewife, is blithely looking forward to visions of sugarplums with her husband and two children to heal her own childhood tragedy. Instead of tidings of good cheer, she is flummoxed to learn that hubby has been so discontent that he has contracted to kill her. His tearful last-minute regrets don’t matter: a professional hit man is breaking in downstairs, so Rachel flees into the night in her pajamas.

On the lam, Rachel meets Lloyd (Keith Wick) at the Arco gas station payphone. (Written in 1983, the play has a several wonderful anachronisms like this, including references to Lotus software and Yugoslavia, plus a running prop gag about phones

Lloyd seems kindly, if a little slow, so the potential stranger danger, though still lurking, is minimized. Rachel herself recognizes that the risk is mutual – she, too, could be someone crazy or dangerous. She then extends that logic to realize that at this point, she could be anyone, now no longer tethered to her once-happy suburban life. So she invents a new identity and off she goes with Lloyd. He lives with his love, Pooty (Debbie Hamid-Runge), a deaf paraplegic in a highly mobile scooter, who also warmly welcomes Rachel into their home.

At this point any rational coherence the narrative still had vanishes like smoke. “Reckless” doesn’t defy logic as much as embrace the surreal. Too much detail would spoil the quirky twists and turns of this episodic farce whose hilarious developments unreel towards absurdity.

Suffice it to say that every main character that we encounter in this play has secrets, some terrible, some tragic. For Pooty, a simple white lie has blossomed into a fraudulent lifestyle. Lloyd, like Rachel, is also running from the past, living in a constructed identity. The first act ends when Rachel, Lloyd and Pooty, through a mixture of honesty and fraud, acquire enough money from a TV game show that you would think their troubles are over.

However, after the intermission, their still precarious circumstances again careen wildly—now dead bodies begin to pile up in their wake. Rachel sees a string of psychotherapists (ironically all played in different guises by Lisa Mae Roether) who unaware of her serial secret identities, have no real shot at achieving any breakthrough. These therapy sessions provide some very funny moments, including a re-birthing monologue that provides a strong rationale for why every one of us should be seriously damaged goods.

The thread of karma also runs throughout the play as characters try to escape terrible situations, only to have them loop back upon them. So it’s not a surprise when Rachel, now a therapist herself in her latest identity, takes a walk-in patient who turns out to be her now grown youngest son. He has issues during the holidays, he explains, because his mother abandoned their family on Christmas years ago. This type of circularity occurs in several instances and gives the play, structured as a series of short sequential episodes that eventually cover years, a comforting cohesion and internal logic.

Hallquist does an empathetic job as the discombobulated Rachel, desperately seeking happiness despite continually buffeting by bizarre circumstances. Likewise, Wick gives a comic blandness and warmth to Lloyd that leaves us not just wondering, but also caring about what the heck is going on inside that mind.

David Zinke gets little chance to shine as one of the ensemble players taking multiple roles, except in his turn as a nasty game show host, which he enlivens well. Cliff Madison, as Rachel’s regretfully homicidal husband was okay, but was then hilarious in drag as a mean-spirited office clerk, built like a linebacker in medium black pumps.

Hamid-Runge projects incredible sweetness as Pooty, made all the more engaging when we realize just how much of her character is a con. She should also get some kind of a Best Driver award for her manipulation of a motorized mobility-assistance device on a very tiny stage.

Roether is flat out hot as eye candy in the game show sequence. (Note to Props Department: make her audience response signs easier to read!) On a higher plane, Roether breathes just enough diversity into her various therapist incarnations to articulate multiple characters cut from the same mold.

Playwright Craig Lucas is better known for his Tony- and Pulitzer-nominated play, “Prelude to a Kiss,” later a successful movie starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. “Reckless” also made it to film, starring Mia Farrow, though its critical reception exceeded its box office.

“Reckless” doesn’t defy logic as much as embrace the surreal. Directed by Live Theatre Workshop artistic director Sabian Trout and ably acted, “Reckless” is a loopy good time with a hint of Christmas and more than dollop of just desserts.


If you go

  • “Reckless” presented by Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway, through Dec. 31
  • Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm.
  • Tickets are $18 with student, senior citizen and military discounts available. For reservations, call 327-4242 or email

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