by Michael Dale
"If we knew what we were doing it wouldn't be called research," explains a pharmaceutical professional in Rx, Kate Fodor's comic romance set around the big business of health care.
Meena (Marin Hinkle), a one-time poet who now edits for Piggeries: American Cattle and Swine Magazine, is suffering from an ailment being called "workplace depression" that prompts her out of the office and into a secluded area of a nearby department store twice a day for crying fits. "It's not a personal failing," explains Dr. Phil Grey (Stephen Kunken). "It's a disease... we hope."
Meena has volunteered to take part in a trial for a new drug, SP-925 (Did you find the pun?), being developed by Phil's company to treat workplace depression in patients who earn at least $165,000 annually. Meeting cute has rarely been played with such endearing neuroticism. Hinkle and Kunken are both very believable in playing people with cold, detached surfaces that barely cover a longing for emotional connections. Meena has settled for a life without her dreams; Phil has succeeded in life by not having any dreams.
But when Phil decides to read a copy of Meena's only published book of poems, it sets off a cycle of actions guaranteed to sink any scientific accuracy. Is Meena in love or just feeling the effects of the drug? Does she really want to be in a relationship, now that she's feeling good about herself? Does Phil know the truth behind her changing personality? And will his feelings for her drive him to find a way to obtain samples of the experimental heartbreak remedy, SP-214.
Rx starts off like gangbusters, with solid contributions by the always adorably oddball Marylouise Burke (as a shopper who befriends Meena during one if her crying episodes) and Elizabeth Rich as an aggressively cheery, better-life-through-medicine spokesperson. Director Ethan McSweeny keeps the evening light and quirky, despite the play being made up of too many short scenes to really build up momentum. But there just isn't enough romance or satire to satisfyingly fill the 100 minutes. Fodor gives us lots of funny lines and an interesting romance but the big payoff we're expecting never occurs, and the play's shift in tone toward the end is a disappointment.
Photos by James Leynse: Top: Stephen Kunken and Marin Hinkle; Bottom: Marylouise Burke.
After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.