In the spirit of the approaching holidays, Theater UCSB presents its season opener this weekend and next, Reckless, a Craig Lucas play centered on a woman-Rachel Fitzsimons-and her revelation one Christmas Eve. But don’t expect this play to depict the touchy-feely side of the holiday season; rather, you’ll be in for a psychedelic mind warp as you strive to make sense of Rachel’s varying situations. Tom Whitaker, UCSB Theater Department professor and director of the show, admits Reckless has “a nightmarish quality to it,” but that it is ultimately “a journey play about how life works.” This holiday season may be as good a time as any to open our minds to an unconventional take on Christmas cheer.
Whitaker, in describing Reckless, likens the character of Rachel to Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Like Alice, Rachel essentially jumps down a rabbit hole when she escapes from her husband, kids, and home by leaping out her bedroom window in her bathrobe and slippers in the dead of winter. “From the moment Rachel jumps out the window,” Whitaker explained, “things shift.” Christy Escobar, a senior in the BFA Acting Program at UCSB, who will play Rachel, describes how, during the course of the play, Rachel converts from being an innocent, sheltered, cheery woman who “wants everything to be perfect” to a woman who is “a much more self-aware and centered person.” In this sense, Escobar almost feels as though she is playing two different characters. Throughout Reckless, Rachel is forced to deal with complicated, sad, and sometimes downright crazy situations-but she somehow manages to survive it all. “Rachel says, ‘Everything happens for a reason,'” explained Escobar.
Created by Lucas (who also wrote Prelude to a Kiss) in 1983, Reckless depicts a surreal world as Rachel struggles to survive and, ultimately, redefine herself. When asked what the most challenging aspect of putting together a play like Reckless is, Whitaker said it is figuring out “how to create a world onstage in which this play can work.” The seven-member cast presents additional challenges, as most actors in the show play more than one part. “As a cast, we’ve talked a lot about how all the parts connect. The cast is like planets orbiting around each other, all connected by gravity fields,” explained Whitaker. The casting for the play, however, was relatively easy for the director. Of Escobar, Whitaker noted, “She has a lot of emotional depth and spirit, which is good because Rachel is naive and optimistic, but at the same time passionate.” Lydia Rae Benko, who plays a deaf character named Pooty, was cast in her role because “she’s physically expressive, both in her eyes and physical movements,” said Whitaker.
Escobar is not afraid to make light of the fact that this play has been a challenge for her, albeit a healthy one. Reckless is a genre-bender in that it is a comic drama, so the lead actress must posses a wide range. “I was nervous about doing a comedy,” explained Escobar, who prefers straight dramas, “but the situations are just so bizarre and crazy that the script carries me. Overall, Reckless is a good challenge and testament to my training. I feel so privileged to have this opportunity as a 20-year-old to play such a meaty role.” Both Whitaker’s and Escobar’s favorite bizarre moment of the play takes place during a game show, when Rachel and two other characters are dressed as planets from the solar system, depicting Earth, Venus, and the sun. “There’s this dreamlike quality to the play,” Escobar pointed out. Whitaker said this scene brings out “the interjection between life onstage and the public audience” because the theater’s audiences will be converted into the play’s game-show audience.
In gearing up for this holiday season, why not be reckless? Who knows-in the end you might just discover something about yourself. Reckless may be one of those “puzzle plays,” as Whitaker calls them, but Escobar is hoping this won’t deter the audience from coming right along with her on Rachel’s quirky journey.
Reckless will be at the UCSB Performing Arts Center November 7-9 and 11-15 at 8 p.m. and November 9 and 15 at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call 893-7221.