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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Complex ‘Reckless’ an engaging experience in Marinette

Critic At Large

Theatre on the Bay

On the lam in Theatre on the Bay’s production of “Reckless” are characters portrayed by Glenn Sellen and Rebecca Stone Thornberry. (James LaMalfa)

MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV)

Theatre on the Bay’s production of “Reckless” has two stories.

One is on stage, and the other is not.

One. On a seemingly idyllic Christmas, Rachel’s husband alerts her that a hitman he hired to kill her is about to arrive in their home. Off Rachel runs in her robe and slippers. On and on she goes in one turn of fate after another, often saying that “things happen for a reason.” Many of the turns are sobering. Some are shocking. Weaving through are threads of ironic humor.

Two. Rachel is more than capably portrayed by Rebecca Stone Thornberry. The role is of the all-in type – exploring recesses of the mind in ways that fantasy seems real. Compelling. Skillful. Impressive. Rebecca Stone Thornberry is director and producer of the play, and she is artistic director of Theatre on the Bay, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus entity that includes community members. Rebecca Stone Thornberry assumed the role of Rachel two weeks before opening. “We are all dealt a hand and we may not have much control over it, but how you play that hand is up to you,” Rebecca Stone Thornberry says in her director’s notes. Wow. Determined.

In the production that has three more performances in Herbert L. Williams Theatre, a song is important. It is the Karen Carpenter version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Important lines:

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Much turns on “Christmas” and “dreams” in the play.

Key scenes take place on or around Christmas. What happens seems like a dream except Rachel is living it. This is a deep and subtle play.

Though not stated, the time is the past when computers are gaining a foothold. (Playwright Craig Lucas introduced the play in 1983). Rachel meets up with a user/misuser of a computer in a job she takes. The sullen person, Trish (Avery Katzbeck), is among quirky personas in the production, such as:

A man in a new life, Lloyd (Glenn Sellen), who takes Rachel in.

His partner, a paraplegic woman, Pooty (Cassidy MacArthur), who isn’t all she seems.

Rachel’s husband, Tom (Noah Steffen), whose hitman contract is for ????? reasons.

Along the way, Rachel is assessed by an assortment of shrinks, and the tone of Craig Lucas is to tease head doctors with no mercy.

Speaking of teasing, a showcase scene stands out not only in concept but execution. As an idea to wipe away a debt of Lloyd – to clear his troubled mind – Rachel figures the best chance for quick money is an appearance on a TV game show. So there Rachel, Lloyd and Pooty are, contestants on “Your Mother or Your Wife” hosted by cheesy announcer Tim Timko (Patrick H. Mines). Rachel, Lloyd and Pooty are dressed as space thingies. Questions in the game become head-game stuff delving morasses of the mind when it comes to the influences of a mother and a wife in a life. The scene is satire that steps into minefields stoked by Sigmund Freud.

Rachel leaps from situation to situation, leaving a trail of questions. One: Why is she awfully casual about leaving behind her sons, the oldest being age 4? It turns out… ahhh, no spoiler here, except to say that the playwright eventually gets to the sons.

Takeaways: Whew, “Reckless” is some head experience, and the performance levels (notably Rebecca Stone Thornberry and Glenn Sellen) are right up there.

Side note: In my Sunday morning on-air segment of Nov. 17 on WFRV-TV, I explored the increasing role of the sound of silence among area audiences. My prime example of the kind of refinement was a Theatre on the Bay audience for “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” of a few years ago, when the audience did not automatically applaud for scenes as a matter of course. That happened again at Sunday afternoon’s performance for “Reckless.”

***

Creative: Playwright – Craig Lucas; producer and director – Rebecca Stone Thornberry; assistant director, stage management, scenic, sound and graphic design – John Thornberry; lighting design – Chris Weber; costume design – Annalisa Mines; Theatre on the Bay artistic director – Rebecca Stone Thornberry

Cast:

Rachel – Rebecca Stone Thornberry

Tom – Noah Steffen

Lloyd – Glenn Sellen

Pooty – Cassidy MacArthur

Roy/First Doctor/First Derelict – Tyrus Cretens

Trish/Talk Show Host – Avery Katzbeck

Tim Timko – Patrick H. Mines

Second Doctor/Fifth Doctor – Kenan Pulver

Third Doctor/Sue/Second Derelict/Woman Patient – Journey Sundberg

Fourth Doctor – Gary L. Scholtz, Sr.

Sixth Doctor/Game Show Hostess – Cat Kramer

Voiceovers:

   David Harbinger, Sheldon Strafford for “Your Mother or Your Wife”

   Announcer, Christmas Morning Show – John Thornberry

   News Anchor – Chris Weber

   Anne Lacher-Holden – Leah LaMalfa

Running time: One hour, 55 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22-23, 2 p.m. Nov. 24

Info: tinyurl.com/theatreonthebay

***

NEXT: “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, April 17-19, 24-26.

THE VENUE: The 362-seat Herbert L. Williams Theatre is located in the Fine Arts Building of the University of Wisconsin-Marinette, 750 W. Bay Shore St. The bay of Green Bay is in shouting distance to the east. The facility was built in 1968. Central in the theater is a thrust stage, a half octagon that the audience surrounds. The theater includes brick walls on both sides of the stage and a white ceiling of half circles radiating from the stage, with the area above the stage exposed for the guts of the lighting grid. Three steps lead to the stage, which today bears the name The Nancy A. Gehrke Stage. The design of the stage was one of the first of its kind in the region. The theater feels spacious.

THE PEOPLE: Herbert L. Williams was professor of communication arts and artistic director of Theatre on the Bay with a lively and engaging personality. He loved to act and appeared many times in leading roles at Theatre on the Bay. Mostly, Herb Williams loved to direct. He retired after 30 years in May 1996 and continued to direct and perform in Green Bay and the Fox Cities. He may have directed more plays than anyone in the region. Herb Williams died in 2014 in Green Bay at age 79. A memorial service was held in the theater that bears his name. Nancy A. Gehrke acted for 40 years on the stage named for her. Today, painting is a primary passion.

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