Review: Kate Fodor’s Rx: No Pharmaceuticals Required
For the most part, Fodor’s Rx for us is a light, warm, goofy and slap sticky feel good romantic comedy. Still, she deserves props for gently addressing the important issue as to whether a number of newly labeled psychological disorders which are widely and casually chemically treated with powerful and dangerous drugs are simply the natural result of unhappy life situations and should not be treated pharmacologically.
Meena Pierotti, a would be, never really was poet, is the 37-year-old managing editor of Piggeries, American Cattle and Swine Magazine. She is so profoundly unhappy with her job that daily she walks over to a rear corner of a nearby department store where old ladies’ underwear is sold (and she is unlikely to be spotted by fellow workers) in order to have a needed cry. Thus, Meena has applied to be a subject in a double-blind efficacy trial of SP-925 (read that nine to five), a drug developed and being tested by Schmidt Pharma that targets workplace depression, a newly identified disease.
Phil Grey, an unhappy research doctor for Schmidt Pharma who screens Meena during the selection process and administers the drug (or placebo) to her during the trial, is strongly intrigued by her. An awkward and rocky romantic relationship develops between the loopy, hangdog pair.
Without excluding comic shtick from her performance, Jessica O’Hara-Baker as the understandably depressed Meena plays more realistically and less satirically than the crazies around her. Correctly and to good effect, director Laura Ekstrand has realized that Meena is the sane person/audience surrogate whom the deranged comedians play off. Dave Maulbeck is very over the top funny as Dr. Phil.
Most efficaciously at hand is Phil’s superior, Allison Hardy, the team leader of both the trial and the Neurology Business Unit at Schmidt Pharma. An amoral, ebullient and confident cheerleader who is completely dedicated to the bottom line goals of her employer, Allison is an ideal model for corporate success and theatrical satire of the perceived venal nature of the capitalist drug industry (I have no doubt but that venality is as undeniable in regard to industrialists as it is in regard to politicians). Allison is the most interesting and, thanks to the delightful performance of Janet Sales, lively and entertaining character in Rx. However, after a few well-landed early barbs at the pharmaceutical industry, author Kate Fodor concentrates on the comedic romance of Meena and Phil, and places Allison on the periphery of her play.
Noreen Farley is delightful as Frances, an elderly widow whom Meena finds and befriends amongst the old ladies’ underwear at the Bon-Ton. An unnecessarily maudlin coda to Frances’ story notwithstanding, the effect of Meena’s attention to her charmingly underscores the central thesis of the play.
Jason Szamreta is broadly comic as Simon, Meena’s annoying and predatory magazine boss; Richard, the self-important ad agency exec for Schmidt who has a need to be stroked; and Ed, a genially incompetent research doctor at Schmidt.
Kate Fodor keeps the pot boiling with such concerns as whether or not Meena is taking placebos and the introduction of an aphrodisiac into her regimen. The result is an enjoyable theatrical treat.
“Allison is the most interesting and, thanks to the delightful performance of Janet Sales, lively and entertaining character in Rx.”
By Bob Rendell for Talkin’ Broadway | February 21, 2014
“Dave Maulbeck is very over the top funny as Dr. Phil.”
“Jason Szamreta is broadly comic as Simon, Richard and Ed.”
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“Director Clark Carmichael has tautly directed, keeping the play in sharp perspective.”
Bob Rendell, Talkin’ Broadway
“Noreen Farley is delightful as Frances,” with Jessica O’Hara-Baker as Meena.