BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Playwright Kate Fodor was last represented in New York back in 2007 with “100 Saints You Should Know,” a quietly touching study in spiritual longing and forgiveness.
Her latest work, which Primary Stages premiered on Tuesday at 59E59 Theatres, is “Rx” and shows the talented author writing in a lighter mood.
Fodor’s contemporary story centers on Meena (Marin Hinkle), a middle-aged, former poet who toils ably but wretchedly as the editor of a trade magazine covering the livestock industry. Tearful Meena joins a clinical trial study for a new drug being developed to ease “workplace depression.”
In the process, Meena becomes romantically involved with Phil (Stephen Kunken), a doctor supervising the study for a pharmaceutical company. Their affair inspires Phil to plan to escape the drug industry and take Meena off to Africa, where she will return to writing poetry and he to actually treating illness.
Their romance implodes when Meena begins to feel better about her office chores – and Phil resorts to consuming samples from an experimental drug for heartbreak – but eventually the characters arrive at a happy ending. Along the way, Fodor takes satirical swipes at the drug business and corporate mindsets.
The redemptive quality of feet and the importance of purchasing new underpants regularly are among the quirkier themes explored by Fodor, whose nicely-composed play is sprinkled with amusing moments but turns out to be a relatively slight piece when compared to “100 Saints You Should Know.”
Director Ethan McSweeny’s typically smooth production benefits from the congenial performances by Hinkle and Kunken, whose geeky, initially anxious characters both obviously brighten when love enters their lives. Capable comedy turns are scored by a sharp Elizabeth Rich as Phil’s gung-ho corporate boss and a bumbling Paul Niebanck as a crackpot research scientist crushed on Einstein.
In a league all by herself is the tiny, ever-endearing Marylouise Burke as a senior citizen who Meena encounters in the underwear section of a department store. This mildly daffy character doesn’t add up to much other than an inspirational figure of sorts for Meena, but Burke puts her distinctively adorable stamp on it. (Would Roundabout please star this delightful actress as Mrs. Laura Partridge in a revival of “The Solid Gold Cadillac?”)
“Rx” continues through March 3 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., New York. Call (212) 279-4200 or visit www.primarystages.org.