Hilarious. Absurd. Upping the stakes at every turn. Even these praises don’t do justice to the Elon University Performing Arts Department’s production of “Reckless.” Craig Lucas’ dark comedy uses Christmastime as the backdrop to tragedy, as protagonist Rachel runs away after her husband takes a contract out on her life. Rachel finds sanctuary in Springfield, Massachusetts, with Lloyd, a kindly social worker, and his deaf, paraplegic partner Pooty.
Nothing is what it seems. This show is quirky and committed to its eccentricities, both in script and with a cast dedicated to bringing this off-kilter world to life.
All the madness happens during Christmas, the holiday of cheer and togetherness, which becomes an ironic setting for the downturn in every character’s life. The setting creates a particular degree of heartbreak, since it is Rachel’s favorite time of year, but it continually brings the worst times of her life.
It adds complexity to the classic Norman Rockwell portrayal of Christmas — a time brimming with drama, heartbreak and the occasional contracted killing under the surface. It brings a new depth to the story that another setting couldn’t.
“Reckless” is a show that isn’t afraid to go off the rails. Some moments can make the audience’s heads spin in shock, but that’s only natural for a play that boasts acquitted killers who write bestsellers and a game show called “Your Mother or Your Wife.” It has a Mr. Miyagi quality to it — it may not always make sense, but the payoff to quirky twists satisfies in the end.
The absurdity of the play is grounded in the authenticity of the characters’ relationships, which the actors execute gracefully. The deep sense of caring between the three leads — Rachel, Lloyd and Pooty — is heartwarming. The therapists shed light on a more somber, reflective side to Rachel.
Each character brings out something new from the others, helping each one add layers to their personalities until the audience is left with the broken but still endearing people on stage. The best way to invest in a play is to buy stock in its characters, and “Reckless” is bursting with value.
The heart of the show lies on the confident shoulders of its star, sophomore Nicole Bloom. Bloom shines as the helplessly optimistic and scatterbrained Rachel, a character who can be unfailingly positive and still tumble into a downward spiral.
She navigates this emotional landscape convincingly. Each emotion is executed with so much raw drive, it will be hard to separate Bloom from her “Reckless” counterpart in weeks to come.
A dark comedy like “Reckless” is hard to get used to at first, full of uncomfortable humor that you’re not sure if you should respond to with a laugh or a gasp. Audience members may ask themselves, “is laughing at this joke revealing some sick, twisted part of my soul to the rest of the audience? Should I laugh boastfully, or would a soft chuckle be more appropriate?”
But “Reckless” requires the audience to move past those notions quickly because the dark quips are sharp and worthy of hearty laughter. By the end, you forget there was even discomfort in the first place.
The cast and crew can count “Reckless” another win for the department. While this may not be as straight-laced as many theater goers are used to, the cast takes its quirks in stride, creating a complex and meaningful theater experience that redefines the Christmas spirit and how we continually reshape our lives when things fall apart.