By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Though Parker has able assists from Max Hartman (whose Vanna White in drag darkens this comedy just that much more) and Craig Parrish (whose lumberjack persona wilts under the despair of lost love), this is really Rachel's play. And Parker gives a magnificent performance, using every device in her acting arsenal--from physical comedy to gutsy emotion--to flesh out a character that might be one-dimensional in less able hands.
Director Christopher Carlos does an admirable job, keeping the audience off balance, allowing us to believe every so often that this splintered narrative may be more dream than reality. The play's truncated manner of handling of time and space--different scenes taking place in different towns, all of them named Springfield--gives the work a dreamy, interior quality. So when Rachel, on her bizarre travels, asks the question, "What state are we in?" the answer seems apparent: the state of her mind. But director Carlos is careful not to let this go too far, keeping the plot moving, coherent and real through the connective tissue of coincidence.
The surreal quality, however, seems enhanced by lighting designer Linda Blase, who breaks the small McKinney Avenue Contemporary stage into at least five separate acting spaces, washing each in just the right amount of illumination to keep our attention piqued. Of course, Carlos makes certain our interest never sags, keeping the temperature in the theater chilly--which only adds to our involvement in the snowy, wind-blown, perpetually Christmas setting.
Oddly, as the play veers toward its conclusion, author Lucas reverses his thematic course, choosing a more Capra-esque ending, something more fabled and feel-good than all that has preceded it. Lucas finally allows Rachel to get her life together and realize that all her zany travails--the fleeing, the child abandonment, the shooting, the poisonings, the deaths--have happened for a reason. So what if the playwright is copping out. God's in his heaven and all's right with the world. After all, it's Christmas.