By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Directed by Kerry Cole, Theatre Three's staging is an exercise in dead acting and badly executed English accents (except for McCracken, who is English). It's sometimes difficult to follow Shaffer's serpentine switches in plot and personas. A few glimmers of perverse wit in the dialogue arise—lines about "poopdeck pederasty" and jokes about "monkey scrotum" notwithstanding—but they are sunk by actors who rush and mush Shaffer's words.
Little attempt is made to incorporate any of the quick changes or slapstick visuals suggested in the script. They could have had a lot more fun with Whodunnit. So the real mystery is, why didn't they?
Reasons for Referral by Dallas writer Lacy Lalene Lynch is getting its first production right now at the Hub Theatre's "Fringe Festival" of new works in Deep Ellum. From the look of it, Lynch seems to have been heavily influenced by repeated viewings of My So-Called Life.
Her so-called drama unfolds like an amateur mental health pageant performed by a slightly older Angela Chase and Brian Krakow (the main characters of the short-lived ABC series). In Lynch's version, college student Jill (Danielle Reeves) and her friend Jack (Nathan Jacobs)—Jack and Jill, get it?—suffer from a complex mix of complexes. She's bipolar, he's chronically depressed and they talk about it nonstop for 70 minutes. A six-member Greek chorus stands frozen behind them, piping up now and then to deliver voicemail messages and to turn into doctors, parents and characters called "Likes to Talk Loud Girl" and "Frat-tastic."
Lynch's script employs the weak techniques of a fledgling playwright trying to deliver a heavy message. Jack and Jill go from zero to hysteria far too quickly, and Lynch doesn't give us reasons to care when one of them descends into madness and commits suicide. This comes after a scene where doctors pour pills over Jack's head (come on, pass those dolls around!).
In transitions, musician Jordan Barrick, sitting stage left, strums on a guitar, sounding ever so much like an out-of-tune imitator of the So-Called Life soundtrack. At the end of the play, singer Layne Lynch even sings "Silent Night"—right off the Christmas episode where Angela helped the homeless girl. Jill even reads sad stuff from her journal, just like Angela did, or maybe that was Doogie Howser.
Director Atseko Factor, forgetting perhaps that this is live theater and not a TV show, has kept the action rigidly static. Jill stays mostly in one spot, obscured completely by a large pillar from where I was sitting. When they do move, the actors simply march in a circle, shouting, at one point, "Faggot! Loser!" This is the third show in a month that I have seen which has featured the circle-marching technique in lieu of actual choreography. Lot of that going on.
Anyway, there aren't good reasons to recommend Reasons for Referral. Lynch should consider this piece a beginner's exercise and learn from her mistakes.
Oh, and to the people who brought the noisy baby to the Sunday matinee: What are you, crazy?