Bizarre flight through a surreal landscape

Reckless Play by Craig Lucas. Directed by Norman Ren'e. The publicity for ``Reckless,'' the opening production of the Circle Repertory Company's 20th anniversary season, describes the Craig Lucas phantasmagoria as a comic nightmare. The bizarre adventure also fulfills dictionary specifications in being heedless of consequences as it pursues the surreal adventures of young matron Rachel (Robin Bartlett) from the moment she escapes a death threat on a snowy Christmas night.

``Reckless'' begins as Rachel is nattering sentimentally to her husband, Tom (Michael E. Piontek), about the joys of yuletide. Tom interrupts what she calls ``one of my euphoria attacks'' with the sobbing announcement that he has taken out a contract on her life and that the contract is about to be executed. The belatedly remorseful spouse bundles Rachel into a robe and slippers and helps her escape through the window into the frozen night.

Rachel's subsequent adventures resemble something of a cross between the world of supermarket tabloids and TV's more sensational feature journalism, accompanied by Christmas jingles and Freudian implications. After a futile roadside phone call, the bewildered fugitive is picked up by a man named Lloyd (John Dossett), who gives her shelter in the home he shares with his wife, Pooty (Welker White), a mute paraplegic. Rachel's odyssey continues as she finds employment in a community welfare organization, helps Lloyd and Pooty win $100,000 on a TV game show, is interviewed by half a dozen psychiatrists (Joyce Reehling), narrowly escapes drinking poisoned champagne, and otherwise pursues a sobering voyage of discovery.

While ``Reckless'' eludes ready meaningful analysis, the story achieves a kind of self-contained rationale as it segues from one fantastic episode to another. The unflappability with which the attractive Miss Bartlett's Rachel faces each new experience and acquires maturity gives the tale its central focus. Clad throughout most of the two acts in a simple nightdress, Rachel becomes the spectator's surrogate and guide.

Under Norman Ren'e's direction, the Circle Repertory Company players sustain the offbeat make-believe, weird humor, and increasingly dark overtones the deceptive nonsense requires. Besides those already mentioned, the versatile cast (most of whom play more than one role) includes Kelly Connell and Susan Blommaert. Loy Arcenas designed the simple, cloud-capped scenery, with lighting by Debra J. Kletter and costumes by Walker Hicklin. The play is scheduled to run through Nov. 6.

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