By Kenzie Love
Coming off its most successful season yet, Calgary’s Mob Hit Productions hopes to improve even more with Reckless by Craig Lucas. The company, co-founded by a group of U of C theatre students five years ago, has a history of staging wacky productions, from Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex–yes, you read that correctly–to Fully Committed, in which one actor played 40 characters. Such eccentricity finds the perfect home in a play with a premise as improbable as Reckless, in which a woman named Rachel flees across the country after her guilt-ridden husband confesses ordering a hit on her.
Unrealistic as it might seem, putting yourself in similar shoes will likely make you feel a little uneasy. Though not a sadist who wishes you discomfort, director Lawrence Leong hopes this sensation will grow stronger throughout the play, even if it distracts from contemplating the work’s themes.
“Mob Hit’s really much more interested in the evocative emotional reaction, as opposed to a more cerebral detached reaction,” says Leong.
Indeed, a cerebral detached reaction will be difficult for audiences if they do ponder the play’s message, namely whether it is ever possible to trust anyone. Reckless offers a resounding “no” to this dilemma, with the caveat you can trust yourself, though it’s not as easy as it might seem.
“[It] is in fact a very difficult thing to do,” confirms Leong. “If you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to even begin to approach that question.”
The play’s cast members can be forgiven if rehearsing for Reckless left them unsure of their identities, as all but two of them portray multiple characters. Even so, they can’t afford to confuse the audience as well, something factoring into the director’s choices.
“You want to be able to cast actors who are flexible, who are able to do very solid character work,” says Leong. “[We choose] people who have good physical ability, being able to express themselves physically and dynamically in a lot of different ways, because they have to switch between characters sometimes quite quickly”.
The play’s backdrop changes at an equally rapid pace given the numerous locales where Rachel seeks refuge. Though this could lead to confusion, Leong isn’t concerned. “[It] makes it a bit more of a dynamic and a challenging play to stage, but I wouldn’t say it’s difficult or overly impossible or anything like that,” he insists.
Leong, who also has experience directing films, credits the company’s use of multimedia for creating smooth transitions between settings. This gives the play a cinematic feel, but he reveals modest designs for the work should he ever bring it to the megaplex.
“There’s always changes to be made because the mediums of theatre and film are somewhat different,” he says. “I think the multiple character thing probably wouldn’t work as well on screen, just because of the conventions that people are willing to accept. But I think this play lends itself very well to an adaptation to film, because it is a very episodic play.”
While actors including Mary-Louise Parker and Peter Sarsgaard have appeared in past adaptations of Lucas’s works, Leong wouldn’t recklessly dump his current cast in favour of Hollywood heavyweights.
“I’m very attached to my cast right now, so it would be kind of hard to imagine other people in those roles,” he explains. Here’s hoping audiences will agree.