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Brutality of Fact

"Brutality of Fact," Keith Reddin's newest work, is a good example of what is best and worst about his particular style of play writing. Reddin is a master of the facile and often funny turn of phrase, but in "Brutality" he tends to settle for superficial glibness instead of substance.

With:
Jackie - Barbara E. Robertson
Maggie - Leslie Lyles
Val - Caitlin Hart
Judy/Janet/Amy - Carmen Roman
Chris - Philip E. Johnson
Corrinne/Kate - Donna Jay Fulks
Harold - Patrick Clear
Marlene - Ann Keating

“Brutality of Fact,” Keith Reddin’s newest work, is a good example of what is best and worst about his particular style of play writing. Reddin is a master of the facile and often funny turn of phrase, but in “Brutality” he tends to settle for superficial glibness instead of substance. Even so, in the hands of extraordinarily gifted director Michael Maggio, the play almost transcends its annoying limitations.

Play could have been a fascinating work about unwavering faith and religious fanaticism, and the toll they can exact. But Reddin’s fast-paced, 90-minute piece seems interested in eliciting a few chuckles and little else.

At the center of the action is Jackie (Barbara E. Robertson), a devout Jehovah’s Witness whose marriage has fallen apart. With the help of Chris (Philip E. Johnson), a close friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness, she is struggling to regain custody of her confused and frightened child, Marlene (Ann Keating).

Jackie’s basket case of a mother, Val (Caitlin Hart), lives with her, while her depressed, alcoholic sister, Maggie (Leslie Lyles), searches for love and some meaning in life. Jackie’s ex-husband, Harold (Patrick Clear), is bitter because her religious beliefs have torn apart the family he wanted.

This is clearly not a happy family, and in several dream sequences that seem awkwardly squeezed into the script, Reddin tries to probe the sadness of each of the principal characters. But most of the time Reddin simply delivers slick humor.

Though the play cries out for more substance, “Brutality of Fact” is always watchable and quite entertaining, thanks in no small measure to director Maggio’s razor-sharp pacing and the carefully etched performances he has coaxed from a uniformly superb cast. Maggio’s design team provides fine support too; of particular note is Robert Christen’s chilling lighting design.

Since recovering from a near-fatal illness a couple of years ago, Maggio’s work has been stunning. When he finds a script worthy of his talents, it will be a major event in the theater. “Brutality of Fact” is not it.

Brutality of Fact

Goodman Theater Studio; 135 seats; $23 top

Production: A Goodman Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Keith Reddin. Directed by Michael Maggio.

Creative: Sets, Linda Buchanan; lighting, Robert Christen; costumes, Birgit Rattenborg Wise; sound design and original music, Rob Milburn; dramaturg, Susan V. Booth.; production stage manager, Kimberly Osgood. Artistic director, Robert Falls; producing director, Roche Schulfer. Opened, reviewed Feb. 21, 1994.

Cast: Jackie - Barbara E. Robertson
Maggie - Leslie Lyles
Val - Caitlin Hart
Judy/Janet/Amy - Carmen Roman
Chris - Philip E. Johnson
Corrinne/Kate - Donna Jay Fulks
Harold - Patrick Clear
Marlene - Ann Keating

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