RX

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    February 1, 2012

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    As I was leaving the theatre I heard a colleague remark to his theatre companion, “Well, not altogether bad.” That about sums it up! With the added note that this is a fantastic cast that is more than worth the ticket.

    Meena (Marin Hinkle) the managing editor of the Pig department at American Cattle & Swine Magazine (who knew?) is being interviewed by Phil (Stephen Kunken) a research physician at a company called Pharma, for a chance to join in a new drug trial that will treat people who suffer from depression in the workplace. They won’t treat just anyone, however, only those who make over $65,000 a year and who have health insurance. As Meena points out, there are a lot of people who have worse jobs than she - rat catchers for instance. Now those people could use some anti-depressant meds, dontcha think? Ahhhhh the pharmaceutical industry….

    Turns out, Phil isn’t all that happy at his job either. For starters, he has to knock heads with his boss Allison (Elizabeth Rich) who refers to desks as “work modules” and who will not buck any talk about internal workplace dissatisfaction unless it is being discussed as a treatable disease. Allison has one eye on the profit margin. Her other eye is closed. Backing up Allison are Richard, a marketing Exec, and Ed a researcher (both played by Paul Niebanck) both of whom are teetering on the edge of being clinical trials unto themselves.

    Over at Meena’s office we meet Simon (Michael Bakkensen), a slightly off center but driven man, who has no real thought other than his sex life and his magazine, and the line between the two is a blur.

    As a matter of fact, the only two people who seem to be unhappy are the two directly involved in the drug testing: Meena and Phil want to create and contribute away from their cubicles. In each other they predictably find a support team of one. Thus the comedy turns into a love story, and that takes the edge out of the mix because the love story is strong on saccharine.

    What also throws this ship off course is the addition of Frances, a woman in her 80’s or so (Marylouise Burke) who has lost her way in life. She meets Meena in the underwear department at Bon Ton’s where Meena regularly goes to cry when work seems too much - twice a day in fact. These two share their innermost regrets and desires within minutes of meeting – sort of a plutonic Harold and Maude. And in spite of the wonderful performances, these scenes do nothing to further the action of the play. I suppose they were intended to be the catalyst for Meena’s transformation, but they aren’t because Meena and Phil are changing each other on their own.

    Meena is certain that she is on the verge of feeling better because of the pill she is taking, although she does not know what part of the study she is in - placebo or the real deal. She is also nuts about Phil. Phil is loosing his handsome head over Meena and is considering leaving his job and joining an international medical team in Africa. But soon Meena is enjoying her job way too much and Phil has become so love-sick that he wants to join a study of a new drug that is supposed to cure heartbreak.

    This is pretty much where the corral gate is left open and the cattle wander off looking for whatever they can find. And because they don’t stay bunched together, we forget which one we are following. Ultimately there has to be one character leading a story. Because that responsibility is severely diluted by Ms. Fodor, who keeps adding elements instead of focusing her trajectory, we are left like climbers on a mountain, tired and low on oxygen.

    The plus side of this evening is the actors. This is a fantastic cast, each of whom shines every moment onstage. These are actors willing to take risks, and they make an extraordinary ensemble. Fodor gives them plenty of material, too much actually, and they mine each moment with skill and a dash of jet fuel.

    "Sprightly, engaging comedy... A winning combination of light satire and romance."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Breaks little new ground, but it’s likable and amusing."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "A brisk little comedy." Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Piercing new comedy 'Rx,' which contains equally strong dosages of satire and insight."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Nicely-composed play is sprinkled with amusing moments."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Less than a landmark but more than a trifle..,"
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - Newsroom Jersey - Variety