Monday, February 2, 2015

Lucky Me Lovingly Rendered

By Leah Gehlsen Morlan
Photo by Bob Goodfellow

Patrick DuLaney; Jennifer Fawcett
Iowa City - Riverside Theatre’s Lucky Me is a charming show which follows the trajectory of unlucky-in-love-and-life Sara Fine’s (Jennifer Fawcett) relationship with the affable Tom (Patrick DuLaney), a tenacious TSA agent. Written by Robert Caisley, who is on-hand for two talk-backs during the show’s run, Lucky Me visits Riverside Theatre as one stop on it’s National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere.

This show has a four-person cast and each of the members is a bit of a force, appropriately. Fawcett is delightful, rolling with the punches and sweetly bringing home the straight-woman comedic bacon in all of her scenes. I’ve always found Ron Clark (Leo, Sara’s father) to be gruffly charismatic, and he’s no different here. Leo is blind, and, while I think everyone’s a critic when it comes to the accurate and respectful portrayal of disability, I felt Clark’s representation was appropriate. DuLaney is the real show-stopper here, as he should be. His Tom is kind yet tough, sweet yet practical. His character is developed far beyond what’s written, his timing is right-on, and he is never, ever sick at sea. He was kind of a dream to watch, and his performance was probably the high-point of this show for me. Tim Budd, as Yuri the landlord, was a gut-buster. Budd is insanely likable, and this performance is no exception. Yuri is the play’s “comic relief,” which wasn’t totally necessary, but was completely welcome. In what I assume was a deliberate choice, his accent was just a touch off, like most of his fashion choices.

Lighting-, sound-, and costume-design were solid. Shelly A. Ford’s set was basic and purpose-serving, a standard layout featuring a living space, kitchen, and doorway to the back bedrooms and bathroom. The details were purposeful and intimate: plastic on the couches, a nod to Sara’s terrible luck and propensity for smashing glasses when “cheers-ing,” shelves with knickknacks and books, a nod to a neatly lived-in space. The combination of set- and sound-design when a young man down the street continually shoots hockey pucks through the living room window was well-played, the sound sharp, the window curtain breezing forward and poor Tom, hitting the floor, narrowly escaping the pucks. My favorite effect, though, was a ceiling leak which was A) visible and B) of the phantom variety.

The costumes were clever and narrative-driven. Leo wears a jacket in every scene, except at the end after he’s been outed as the controlling, possibly-mildly-demented father who still holds Sara’s love and loyalty. Tom’s TSA uniform is (assumedly) accurate and his and Sara’s street clothes are character-appropriate. Yuri sports a wardrobe that matches his personality, lots of open necklines and flamboyant patterns (his July 4th outfit is holiday-driven, obvi).

Drew Bielinkski’s lighting was really great, allowing for a storm and a (painfully realistic) fireworks display. Jody Hovland’s direction here was skillful, decisive, and consistent. The objectives played out onstage were unwavering (my favorite is Sara cleaning her fish tank, after yet another set of her fishy friends meet their maker).

I will say that Lucky Me’s second act gets a little muddled for me, in terms of script. I love the set-up in this show. Sensitive Tom and House-bound Sara make for a really fetchingly fascinating couple. Leo may or may not be the curmudgeon with the heart of gold, and Clark’s cunning turn had me wondering, just like Tom, if he was even really blind. There are so many intriguing questions left un-answered. When they are answered, though, in the second act—after much build-up and circumstance—the ends don’t match the means. Sara’s predilections are bizarre, but their roots seem too bizarre for consumption. The characters in this play are lovingly, tenderly written, though, and that really pays off.

Lucky Me is a really clean show, in terms of its onstage design. The designers were on their games and it made for a tight-looking production, which more than made up for any script-related quibbles I had. Lucky Me runs through February 22. More information at

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