Reckless, by Craig Lucas, has often been called the antidote to A Christmas Carol. A play for Christmas lovers about Christmas lovers that is incredibly surprising, and not always happy, is a welcome twist on the linear (and somewhat predictable) variations on traditional Christmas stories. We follow Rachel as she flees her family home on Christmas Eve, after her husband reveals that he’s taken out a contract on her life. Her quest to find her home (and herself) takes her through a whirlwind of adventures, each slightly more fantastic than the next.
Whirlwind Story Takes Us on an Unexpected Adventure
HE SAID: In this story, Rachel takes almost the opposite arch of Scrooge – she starts off with an abundance of Christmas spirit and is left with a more authentic vision of reality. Furthermore, Scrooge is only taken through images of his own life (past, present, and future) only to end up back in the real Christmas morning with those around him unaware. Rachel’s path, on the other hand, takes place over a long stretch of time and her choices deeply affect those around her, as we see their lives crash down as well, only for her to end up in a potentially delusional state. According to the actors in the cast, the ending is left up to the audience as to whether or not the final scene is a vision or reality. Not often does a company leave a big moment like that unanswered, but in this case it works both for the chaotic nature of the piece and as means to create a lasting conversation for the viewers.
SHE SAID: I really loved the way the story danced around the line between reality and fantasy — that balanced seemed to fit well with the Christmas-y content in the story. This show depends on the audience identifying with Rachel enough to go on her journey with her — whether or not you share her Christmas zeal. Once we’re on board, we get a never-ending journey that explores other people’s secrets, whether you can ever really leave your past behind, and how it feels to live your dreams. Fortunately, Julia Motyka as Rachel was utterly captivating, and equal parts obnoxious and endearing, which really won my heart, and I identified with her the whole time.
Denver Center Theatre Company Brings Out Talent Once Again
HE SAID: Motyka was fantastic to watch evolve (devolve?) throughout the story. But, of course, the Denver Center Theatre Company consistently offers top notch performances and that is true in this show across the roles. Tyrone Mitchell Henderson had an almost show-stealing moment as the hilarious game show host. It was a testament that the most outlandish characters can be believable when played with conviction. It was also impressive to see Drew Cortese step out of his brutal role in The House of the Spirits (critique HERE) immediately into this much zanier piece. His time as the son was very touching.
SHE SAID: The performances were definitely top-notch across the board. I also enjoyed Henderson in his several appropriately outlandish roles. In addition, I enjoyed Kathleen M. Brady as Trish and Leslie O’Carroll as Pooty, who had one of the shows most touching moments as she explained how she felt “heard” by Lloyd (played with depth and sincerity by Jeffrey M. Bender). But as I mentioned before, Motyka really tied it all together. In a whirlwind role for which she barely leaves the stage (even for costume changes), I felt that she really hit the spirit of the character home, and I was invested in both her humanity and her fantasy throughout.
Design’s Beauty is in the Details
HE SAID: Another element that is (becoming) ubiquitous at DCTC is the incredible use of video to enhance the telling of the story. Charlie I. Miller, the resident multimedia specialist, has done some brilliant work in the past, and took a more subdued approach this time around. The only video work was an 80’s TV montage at the beginning (to immediately set the time) and some live video feed work, all shown on some old TV sets. However, his best moment is probably missed by most. During driving scenes those same TV sets display the snow falling outside the car with whatever monitor the car is facing designed to look like the snow is blowing into the windshield. When the car turns, the video smoothly transitions to adjust to the new direction. It was such a small detail, but one I appreciated very much.
SHE SAID: I think that all the technical elements for Reckless are actually my favorite that I’ve seen used in the Space Theatre so far. The video really enhanced (and made accessible to a the entire audience in the round) the game show and talk show scenes. I thought that the set (designed by Kevin Rigdon) was incredibly gorgeous, utilizing the star-shaped voms for a recurring snowflake theme, as well as the use of trapdoors and hydrolics to heighten the fantastic nature of some of the transitions. Small details really reinforced the idea that the design teams were communicating and collaborating, like the Christmas tree skirt that became Rachel’s skirt (for which I’m not sure whether to credit Rigdon for scenic design or Clare Henkel for costume design).
Darker Story Still Makes for Christmas Delight
THEY SAID: Are you looking for a holiday show but not in the mood for something as cheery as White Christmas or yet another production of A Christmas Carol? Then DCTC has a wonderful option for you to consider. The performances are as strong as usual, and the design might be the simplest seen yet this season at the Denver Center, but also one of the best. Reckless may not be for everyone, however, as it is a bit dark, twisted, and outright absurd at times. But whether or not you prefer that side of comedy, this show is full of heart which allows the material to connect to a wide array of audiences; making it a wonderful holiday season addition.
For more a full plot synopsis and history of Reckless, see the wikipedia article. Reckless presented by the Denver Centre Theatre Company plays through December 18 at the Space Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.