The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The play begins on a snowy Christmas Eve. Rachel is having a “euphoria attack” as she looks out her bedroom window and anticipates the happiness that Christmas Day will bring to her family. She remembers thinking that as a child she “wanted to live in Alaska because it always snowed and Santa was up there, so it must always be Christmas.” Her husband, Tom, is in bed watching television with the sound turned off and seems preoccupied and conflicted. Suddenly, in a fit of conscience, Tom tells his wife that he has taken a contract out on her life and that a professional killer is about to enter their home and murder her. At first, Rachel thinks Tom is kidding, but once convinced that he is telling the truth, she leaps out their bedroom window clad only in slippers and pajamas.

Rachel trudges to an Arco gas station and is rescued from her precarious predicament by Lloyd, a physiotherapist, who takes her home and introduces her to his wife, Pooty, a deaf-mute paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. The couple welcome Rachel (who tells them her name is Mary Ellen Sissle) and help her get a job at Hands Across America, a nonprofit humanitarian foundation, where Rachel meets Roy, the head of the foundation, and Trish, its budget director. When Rachel returns from her first day at work, she discovers that Pooty is neither a deaf-mute nor a paraplegic. Pooty pretends to be disabled because Lloyd (who escaped a bad marriage and changed his name to keep from paying child support) feels better about himself if he works with physically challenged people. Lloyd will later tell Rachel that in reality he walked out on his wife, who had multiple sclerosis, and his two children—one brain damaged—because he was too drunk to see his boy playing in the snow and he ran over him with a snowblower. He left his family destitute and with no hope for their future. Pooty tells Rachel that she met Tom at work and pretended to be disabled to get his attention and keep his interest. Now Pooty must continue to feign her conditions.

Bizarre events continue to occur, and Rachel is convinced she needs therapy. She seeks the counsel of a number of inept psychiatrists, none of whom does her any good. Eventually, Lloyd confesses to Rachel...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The episodic structure of this play, composed of twenty-eight scenes, necessitates a simplicity in staging. Any attempt to literalize the many locales in the play would be a disaster, producing an excruciatingly slow pace. Since the play is nonrealistic, economy and suggestion are employed in casting and staging. There are multiple characters and multiple locales, but neither needs to be literal.

Although the play calls for a cast of at least twenty-one characters, Lucas suggests that the play can be performed with as few as seven actors. Since there is no need to maintain verisimilitude, actors may and usually do play more than one role. It works very well, for example, if the actor who plays Tom also plays Tom Junior at the end of the play. It also works well if the six doctors are played by the same actor. The actor who plays Roy often plays the Talk Show Host and Tim Tinko, while the actor who plays Trish usually plays Dr. Carrell. This kind of “doubling” reinforces for the audience the fact that this is nonrealistic theater and asks them to make connections among the various characters each actor plays. The various locales are not literally staged either. Blocks, chairs, stools, and lighting suggest Rachel’s home, the Arco gas station, Lloyd and Pooty’s home, the Christmas tree in their home, the Hands Across America organization, the game show, the various hotel rooms, and so on.


(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

DiGaetani, John L., ed. “Craig Lucas.” In A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Gould, Christopher, ed. Anti-Naturalism. New York: Broadway Play Publishers, 1989.

Henry, William A., III. “Beguiling Visions.” Time 132 (October 31, 1988): 85.

Hopkins, Billy. “Craig Lucas.” BOMB 28 (Summer, 1989): 56-59.

Lucas, Craig. “Equality in the Theater.” BOMB 57 (Fall, 1996): 66-70.

Parks, Steve. “Exchanging Kisses and Swapping Souls.” Newsday, March 12, 1993, 76.

Rich, Frank. “A Christmas Fable of People Who Learn to Know Themselves.” New York Times, September 26, 1988, pp. C19, C22.

Spindle, Les. Review of Reckless. Back Stage West, October 29, 1998, 14.

Taitte, Lawson. Review of Reckless. Dallas Morning News, December 15, 1996, p. C1.

Vaughan, Peter. “Don’t Take Lucas’s Plays Too Seriously.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 4, 1995, p. 7E.