Long, Noisy Set Changes Spoil An Otherwise Fine Production At WEPG’s “Rx”

Laura Singleton and Jeff Kargus in West End Players Guild's production of "Rx." Photo: John Lamb

Laura Singleton and Jeff Kargus in West End Players Guild’s production of “Rx.” Photo: John Lamb

Kate Fodor has written a cute little play about the excess of drugs in our lives today and turned it into a love story that is peppered with goofy characters, some good laughs and maybe a moral or two. West End Players Guild has cast it fairly well and the actors do a splendid job of bringing the story to life on stage. The only problem with “Rx” is a technical one- how to quickly and quietly move from one scene  to the next in a play that has about seven or eight locale changes in both acts. They didn’t solve this problem and, as a consequence, the erratic and lengthy breaks between scenes caused a bit of a stir in the audience and broke the concentration and rhythm of the play.

Laura Singleton is splendid as Meena, a neurotic editor of a farm animal magazine who hates her job. Her expressive face and body language give us some priceless moments as she reacts to the absurdity of some of the situations she’s placed in. As the play opens, she is being interviewed for entry into a program testing a new drug to help you cope with and enjoy your work. The doctor taking her information is an insecure nebbish named Phil portrayed brilliantly by Jeff Kargus. You can almost see the sparks fly immediately and before you can get through the first, arduous scene change, they’ve broken all the rules of the test cases by falling in love.

John Lampe and Jeff Kargus in "Rx" at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

John Lampe and Jeff Kargus in “Rx” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

His boss, Allison, is  given a tough-as-nails performance by Beth Davis. She’s no-nonsense with a smoldering sexuality that can’t help but influence her every action. Matt Hanify is an office geek, Simon, who actually seems to enjoy rooting around for the best stories about swine and cattle. His sudden burst of behavior with Meena sets the stage for a “guess where this is going” second act. John Lampe plays dual roles but is superb as the science expert, Ed, who has a penchant for inadvertently blowing things up and almost consistently getting things wrong. Rounding out the cast is Suzanne Greenwald as an elderly widow who starts to haunt the large ladies lingerie department of the local Bon Ton when she meets and starts to carry on conversations with Meena. The exchanges seem to help both ladies get through the rough patches in their lives.

Laura Singleton consoles Suzanne Greenwald in "Rx" at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

Laura Singleton consoles Suzanne Greenwald in “Rx” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

That department store setting is the major problem with set changes in this play. Instead of a roll-on prop for the lingerie bins, several scene changers must carry on a huge prop that must be lifted onto an elevated stage in front of the proscenium. Not only does it make for long pauses in the story, it’s a noisy process that disrupts the magic of the moment. West End Players Guild has a unique space and, with the small proscenium stage, they often use the front of the space for additional scenes in plays. Although they usually work well, this one does not. Another problem is with multiple costume changes that also hinders the progress of a play that needs to be more like a farce  than the slow-paced production it has become. Director Renee Sevier-Monsey has done a remarkable job with the clever script but she really should have worked even more closely with set designer Ethan Dudenhoeffer to streamline the scene changes. Sevier-Monsey also designed a fine lighting design that works well within the parameters of the play and the Jean Heckman costumes are fine.

It’s a real shame because the play and the outcome are very funny and sweet. With absurd characters and implausible but laughable situations, it is a very pleasant production. The actors work hard and do a great job, but those tech problems just slow things down too much to allow an audience time to get into and enjoy the delightful show that is going on onstage. “Rx” runs through April 13th. Contact them at westendplayers.org for tickets or more information.

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