Playwright Kate Fodor's sharp-witted, laugh-out-loud new comedy "Rx" poses a familiar vexing paradox for its main characters.
What if professional success means personal failure? Which is more important love life or work life? The answer might seem easy, but if the outcomes are in opposition with risk and uncertainty in each, then a real choice must be made.
That's a lot of heft for a production as enjoyable and entertaining as this new B Street production often is in the new play's West Coast premiere. Fodor cleverly fixes the situation in a clinical drug trial, which also allows her to put several modern ironies into play.
The main characters in the midst of mayhem are Stephanie Altholz's Meena and Peter Story's Phil. Meena hates her job but Phil finds his tolerably interesting at the moment. She's the managing editor of American Cattle and Swine magazine and he's a doctor running lab tests for a new drug that treats "workplace depression." Meena was a prose poet whose one published book was panned in the only review it received, while Phil was an emergency room doctor whose candor with patients got him fired.
Young B Street regulars Altholz and Story form a convincing pair of opposites attracted to each other. Her Meena has an angular rigidity while Story has a soft, pliable facade that openly accepts her. Altholz's subtly expressive body language continually conveys the story of her character's bound-up life while Story emotionally connects with his malleable, cherubic features.
Meena's so unhappy that she often leaves work to cry in the back of a nearby department store. So she applies to be a part of the testing process for Phil's SP-925 and gets accepted. The story flits by in a succession of short scenes at the different workplaces with a heady variety of outrageous colleagues. Jason Kuykendall's slick, smug Simon heads up the marketing side of Meena's magazine while Melinda Parrett, goal-oriented team leader of Phil's project, keeps him continually on task.
Kuykendall and Parrett are models of bright comic economy with their sharp timing, and one only wishes the characters had scenes with each other. Kurt Johnson nearly steals the show with a couple of hysterical cameos, the first a brilliant marketing-concept duet with Parrett becomes its own contained, dynamic mini-drama. Johnson's second character, a blithely absent-minded research colleague of Phil's, probably should not be allowed near aspirin much less the serious drugs he handles daily.
Veteran actress Tamara Walters gives a charming and subtle performance as a woman who befriends Meena in the department store.
Director Buck Busfield moves the story crisply, though the short scenes and continual breaks threaten the momentum in the show's second act. Fodor layers a great deal of thought into this zinging comedy, and though she gives her characters more of a break at the end than they need, all are on their game.
What: B Street Theatre stages the West Coast premiere of Kate Fodor's comedy romance "Rx," which asks the question "Can you find love in a clinical drug trial?"
When: 6:30 Tuesdays; 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 10.
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
Tickets: $23-$35, $5 student rush
Time: 2 hours, including one intermission
Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreetheatre.org