nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
February 5, 2012
You may leave Kate Fodor’s Rx, a comedy about the relationships people have with one another and their pharmaceutical drugs, feeling a bit drowsy. Weariness is indeed a side effect of this over-stuffed new play; so too are restlessness, frustration, and sudden-onset sentimentality. Still, it’s hard not to admire Fodor’s guts, and Ethan McSweeny’s imperfect yet thoroughly balls-to-the-wall direction.
Part big-screen rom-com, part workplace sitcom, Rx follows Meena Pierotti (Marin Hinkle), the managing editor of Piggeries, American Cattle & Swine Magazine, as she participates in a clinical trial of a new pill that could potentially end her so-called “workplace depression,” and curb her twice-daily runs to the old women’s underwear section of the local department store where she goes to cry.
Enter Phil Gray (Stephen Kunken), a doctor and researcher with Schmidt Pharma, tasked with leading the trial of the drug SP-925, or, Thriveon. He is similarly unfulfilled with life, that is, until he meets Meena and discovers that the key to satisfaction might just be love. The rest of the piece charts the ups and downs of their relationship with one another, their friends, and colleagues.
Filled with jarring tonal shifts, characters that disappear for long stretches, and supporting roles that are more entertaining than our protagonists, Rx probably could have benefitted from a visit with Dr. Dramaturg for another round of edits. Hinkle and Kunken are sweetly neurotic, but their relationship is the least interesting aspect, especially when compared to the deliciously quirky scenarios and performances of Marylouise Burke, Paul Niebanck and Elizabeth Rich. (Michael Bakkensen rounds of the cast.)
Burke is Frances, an older woman who has never really lived, that is until she meets Meena in the underwear section and decides to change her attitude. First, she buys a pair of bright pink panties with flowers around the lining. Then she starts planning a trip to the Galapagos. Then she goes to the doctor, something, in retrospect, she should have done earlier. Niebanck is Ed, a fellow Schmidt Pharma researcher, a daffy Einstein-devotee responsible for testing the pill SP-214, a drug which may or may not cure heart break. The truly incredible Rich is Allison, Phil’s gung-ho, by-the-books, in-love-with-her-job boss.
Lee Savage’s clever but boring multi-door set allows for very smooth transitions, but when the play briefly veers into farce, the pace is never fast enough. Andrea Lauer’s costumes and Matthew Richards’ lighting add to the blandness of the characters’ realities, and Lindsay Jones’ original music perfectly captures the milieu of doctor’s office muzak.
Fodor seems to be borrowing from Sarah Ruhl’s playbook in crafting this mélange of eccentric characters and situations, but is less successful. As in Ruhl’s work, these idiosyncratic characters come and go, defining their terms as they please, but Fodor’s reality is not heightened enough for this to be completely successful. It’s an admirable effort, but it’s not quite there yet. Maybe there’s a pill for it. If so, take two and call me in the morning.