Review: Kate Fodor’s Rx: No Pharmaceuticals Required
Meetings and presentations, spreadsheets and endless paperwork don’t tend to inspire euphoria. But what if they could?
In “Rx” by Kate Fodor, which Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre is staging at Oakes Center in Summit, for some, they do.
The play imagines a pharmaceutical company’s study of a pill that alleviates “workplace depression,” an ailment apparently caused by the doldrums of inane cubicle rules and careers that don’t fulfill workers’ ambitions.
The most important byproduct of the drug, however, turns out to be the fact that in registering for the study, a woman ends up falling in love with the doctor who examines her. Whether their happiness depends on each other or on how fulfilled they are by their occupations—and if both is an option—is the show’s primary tension.
“Rx” and its central relationship progress predictably and innocuously, without much in the way of novel insight or side-splitting comedy to leave an impression long past the final lines. But artistic director Laura Ekstrand leads an entertaining production, with actors from the repertory company seemingly tailor-made for their roles. They effectively draw out Fodor’s amusing, offbeat dialogue.
Jessica O’Hara-Baker gives a spot-on, charismatic performance as Meena Pierotti, a familiar type of quirky heroine whose dream job is to write prose poems. She has published her first book, but has largely given up on her literary future. Her equally oddball job finds her as the managing editor of a magazine devoted to pig farming.
Far from a free-spirited creator, however, Meena comes across as a perilously uptight student who needs to be reminded to breathe. She begs not to be taken out of the drug study when she fears her answers to a questionnaire may be unsatisfactory.
As her equally earnest but somewhat dysfunctional match, Dr. Phil Gray (a sweet, sympathetic Dave Maulbeck) is a former emergency room doctor whose exhaustion and frustration led him to lose his temper on the job. He now works for a pharmaceutical company administering clinical studies. And, naturally, he has an appreciation for poetry.
While Meena waits for her pill to kick in, she comforts herself in an unconventional setting where she meets the elderly but sprightly widow Frances (Noreen Farley), who becomes something of a grandmother figure, encouraging Meena to make a list of everything she wants in life.
Farley is thoroughly charming, but the character is still a heavy-handed, clichÃ©d reminder that Meena must live her life to the fullestâ€”before it is too late.
Ultimately, this is a classic love story, but the workplaceâ€”and, of course, the work-life balanceâ€”is crucial to its progression. The production’s minimal set is composed of desks, motivational posters and an examination table, with a few key props that add to the humor.
Jason Szamreta shows versatility in multiple roles, including Meena’s smarmy co-worker and an inept doctor who is obsessed with Albert Einstein. Janet Sales also gives a scene-stealing performance as Allison Hardy, a pencil skirt-clad caricature of the perfect pharma employee, pure perkiness with an almost sexual response to all things related to corporate culture.
None of these figures is particularly realistic, but Dreamcatcher’s cast finds a way to make us care for them and whether they get whatever it is they love: woman, man or managerial status.
“Jessica O’Hara-Baker gives a spot-on, charismatic performance as Meena.” Phil is played by “a sweet, sympathetic Dave Maulbeck.”
By Ronni Reich for The Star-Ledger | February 20, 2014
“Jason Szamreta shows versatility in multiple roles.” (top) Dave Maulbeck (bottom)
“Janet Sales gives a scene-stealing performance as Allison.”
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“Artistic director Laura Ekstrand leads an entertaining production, with actors from the repertory company seemingly tailor-made for their roles.”
The Star Ledger
Jessica O'Hara-Baker with “thoroughly charming” Noreen Farley.