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Theater UCSB to Open Its Season With ‘Reckless’ Abandon

Playwright Craig Lucas' play has the ability to treat serious, even horrific, themes in a light, humorous way.

Theater UCSB will open its 2008-09 season with a dark, manic comedy, Reckless by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss), directed by Tom Whitaker of the UCSB faculty.

Reckless stars Kane Anderson, Lydia Rae Benko, Christy Escobar, Sean Harrigan, Merlin Huff, Erika Lee and Natasha Lloyd — all UCSB students — and features a faculty-student scenic design collaboration by Tal Sanders (faculty) and Erinn McGrew (student), with costumes by Ann Bruice and lighting by Vickie Scott.

Reckless plays at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday and Nov. 15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 15, in the Performing Arts Theatre on the UCSB campus.

“I always wanted to do something reckless, you know?” says Rachel Fitzsimons, whose impulsive optimism rivals that of Voltaire’s Candide, “Run away in the middle of the night in your slip and your slippers with some strange man who would ruin your reputation and disappoint your parents terribly and disappoint your friends and just make you really happy. Well, I think we get these ideas from rock ‘n’ roll songs.”

When Rachel’s husband admits to her, on Christmas Eve, that he has taken out a contract on her life, she commits exactly the kind of reckless act she has been talking about, and that is only the beginning of the recklessness of Reckless. Rachel may be more of a brilliant stratagem than a solidly thought-out character, but for those who wish they could live for the moment, she is the mother of all wish-fulfillments.

Article Image
Playwright Craig Lucas sees serious things in a funny way. (Chris Hildreth photo)
Writer Don Shewey, in a perceptive review of Reckless, made the following observation, which ought to reassure anyone considering attending the UCSB production: “Reckless sustains its comic buoyancy while dealing almost relentlessly with dark subjects — pain, loss, alienation, nameless middle-of-the-night fears, and the chaos of the universe.” Lucas thus has that rare virtuosity of writing talent that enables him to treat serious, even horrific, themes in a light, humorous way without trivializing them or diminishing their seriousness.

Lucas was born April 30, 1951. When he was 8 months old, he was adopted by a conservative Pennsylvania couple. His father was an FBI agent, his mother a homemaker. He graduated from high school in 1969, and discovered his left-leaning political sentiments and his own homosexuality at about the same time.

He still maintains that coming out liberated him and made possible a career in the theater. It is possible, even plausible, to divide his work, as some critics do, into “gay plays” (Blue Windows, Longtime Companion, The Dying Gaul) and “straight plays” (Reckless, Prelude to a Kiss, Three Postcards), but I think that you will find, whichever of his plays you consider, that his themes are universal enough to compel the attention of all audiences, regardless of sexual orientation. (Brilliant as it is, however, I don’t know that I would recommend The Dying Gaul to anyone but die-hard fans of Peter Saarsgard, Campbell Scott or Patricia Clarkson.)

Tickets to Reckless are $13 for students, seniors and UCSB Faculty and staff, and $17 for general admission. Tickets are available at the department ticket office by calling 805.893.7221.

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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