There are times when good television makes for good theatre. This is one of those times. For the most part this play and this production exceed your expectations big time. This is the story of what goes on behind the scenes on a reality show called Rehabilitation. The deal is that the camera follows an addict around for a week or so and then stages an intervention with that person’s family. When s/he agrees to go for treatment the doors of any one of a number of deluxe rehab centers are open in exchange for the publicity they get on the show.
From what I have heard of reality shows, they are pretty much scripted down and formatted so that there are no real surprises. This production team seems more concerned with making television that is on the edge – that is, in a word, good. As we meet these people they have already succeeded because the network has increased their episode load from 13 to 22. With no additional staff to assist them, this production team is stretched way too thin.
At the helm is Bernice (Talia Balsam) who has eyes on the exit while she controls her domain with a breezy but firm touch. Things are what they are and accommodations must be made. The person who has to endure the brunt of these accommodations is Connie (Kelly McAndrew), the field producer who has been making magic with each episode. A sober alcoholic and former therapist, she knows her subjects and is devoted to finding the ones who can be saved.
But with the demand for numbers, the team is forced to consider Clemson MacAddy (John Magaro) and the rest of his family, Brittany (Zoe Perry who is terrific) and Mackson (Luke Robertson). While it is Clemmy who is the addict, his sister is strung fairly tight just from the responsibility of being his caretaker. And Mackson has his self-referential eye on the television team.
It all goes to hell in a handbag, of course, not only in the story but in the structure of the play as well. So heavily weighted is the front half of the play – Connie must take on an inexperienced Associate Producer as well as go on location with her future boss as the First Camera. Her career is teetering and Clemmy is the balancing factor. Because Clemmy could not balance his way across the street with a paper bag, the project comes to a halt.
In the mean time, however, the play itself runs off the rails. McLachlan has filled his story with so many tributaries that he is not really able to wrap it all up in the end. While the first act is aces, the second simply does not fare as well.
On the other hand, MacLachlan is fortunate to have a crackerjack cast who never lets up. In spite of the fact that they are working on one of the most awkward sets I have ever seen, this ensemble is remarkable throughout. They are so good that they almost make the entire piece come together. The last scene especially digs into the audience like a laser probe.
MacLachlan knows his characters, and all he needs to do is trust his nose for a good story. There’s more to come from this fine writer.
"McLachlan piles too much onto his plate for all the relationships to be explored with any depth, a frequent mistake made by young playwrights."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"The element of surprise is an automatic plus. Factor in a crack cast, and this smart and topical play presented by the Atlantic Theater Company is ready for prime time."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Makes for good theater."
Frank Sceck for New York Post
"The reality of the acting, especially in the close-up Atlantic Stage 2 space, helps to make “Good Television” some mighty good theater."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
External links to full reviews from popular press...