Rendezvous with Reality

Amildly amusing play about deeply disturbing attitudes, "Rendezvous With Reality" will never get a better production than this -- the set, the cast and the direction are all superb for a script that the Oklahoma City bombing has revealed to be shallow beyond bearing.

With:
Cast: Cory Einbinger (Little), Juliette Dunn (Trena), Alix D. Smith (Oleta), Jill Brennan (Chelsea McKinnon), David Ingram (Todd Albright), Kevin Del Aguila (Wesley), Scott Hoxby (Colin Claymore), Hank deLuca (Lionel MacCory).

Amildly amusing play about deeply disturbing attitudes, “Rendezvous With Reality” will never get a better production than this — the set, the cast and the direction are all superb for a script that the Oklahoma City bombing has revealed to be shallow beyond bearing.

The one-joke premise is that a private plane crashes in Idaho; two New Age yuppies limp their way to the nearest house, which is inhabited by Old Age yokels. The formerare Chelsea (Jill Brennan), an “environmental composer,” and Todd (David Ingram), the inventor of Follow Your Bliss Protein Bars. They talk about “awareness” and “vibes” and “experiencing,” about how Mother Nature is “stressed out”; their sexless, constantly negotiated relationship has managed to raise self-denigration to an art form.

The equally 2-D locals are a repulsive collection of backwoods types: a teenage son (Cory Einbinger) who fries ants and collects fox teeth; Oleta, the mother (Alix D. Smith), who slings her husband’s teenage girlfriend’s wig into the outhouse while coping with twins; the teen tart (Juliette Dunn), whose shorts get shorter by the minute; hanger-on Wesley (Kevin Del Aguila), a skinny, dangerously stupid hero-worshiper; and the head of this household, Colin Claymore (Scott Hoxby), who is smart, sexy, seductive and armed to the teeth.

The yuppies think they have found “Grapes of Wrath” authenticity (“Oh, wow. I’ve never met an illiterate person before.”). The yokels can’t believe anybody could be as naive and ridiculous as the couple appear to be, so they assume they are FBI agents.

The human potential movement meets the militia of the Christian right, and it’s not even a contest. The way playwright Murphy Guyer has constructed his satire, the silly, pretentious idealists are fools and all of their self-important nonsense is trampled under the ruthless, repulsive invective of white supremacy.

Moral relativism (“Evil is a myth, like Santa Claus”) is exposed as childish and treacherous (“If you don’t believe in bad people, how you gonna keep them from hurtin’ you?”), while moral absolutism eludes everyone but the murderous fanatics.

Although Guyer has a good ear for the rhythms and devices of formulaic preaching, the dialogue is merely repetitious and seems supplied by specialty magazines. The characters never develop, and all we feel is scorn for all of them. The complexity of the social issues inherent in his play eludes Guyer, and his solution is society’s solution: Kill ’em.

But David P. Gordon’s set design is a wonder. The tiny stage contains a house with a porch, an outhouse, a huge stack of firewood, the edge of the forest with paths leading off in different directions, and a dirt yard. Unhappily this realism works against the flimsy characters, making them seem merely hollow rather than cartoonish. Jiri Zizka’s casting and pacing are impeccable.

Rendezvous with Reality

Production: PHILADELPHIA A Wilma Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Murphy Guyer. Directed by Jiri Zizka.

Crew: Sets, David P. Gordon; music, John Hodian; costumes, Hillary Guenther; lighting, Jerold R. Forsyth; sound, Eileen Tague; stage manager, Roy W. Backes; production manager, Neil A. Kutner; dramaturg, Michael Hollinger. Artistic directors, Blanka Zizka, Jiri Zizka; managing director, Teresa Eyring. Opened, reviewed Dec. 6, 1995, at the Wilma Theater; 100 seats; $ 29 top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

With: Cast: Cory Einbinger (Little), Juliette Dunn (Trena), Alix D. Smith (Oleta), Jill Brennan (Chelsea McKinnon), David Ingram (Todd Albright), Kevin Del Aguila (Wesley), Scott Hoxby (Colin Claymore), Hank deLuca (Lionel MacCory).

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