Where does one turn when life becomes unbearable? The Falcon
Theatre’s West-Coast premiere of John Belluso’s “Gretty Good Time”
gives a powerfully moving voice to the suicidally raw emotions of a
paralytic polio victim.
Much as Hamlet wished “To sleep, perchance to dream,” Gretty, a
32-year-old wheelchair-bound woman, escapes reality through her
subconscious. By concocting her own surreal episode of “This Is Your
Life,” her perspective on suffering changes through her conversations
with a Hiroshima survivor.
Director Joe Regalbuto, best known for his 10-year acting stint on
television’s “Murphy Brown,” makes his theatrical directorial debut
with mostly positive results. Action flows between Gretty’s life and
fantasies with only a few lengthy blackouts, and despite Belluso’s
somewhat melodramatic script, Regalbuto elicits strong performances.
Ann Stocking, in the title role, has Gretty’s clipped, almost
bitter defensiveness down pat. Belluso’s script could use more
glimpses of her long-repressed humanity so her final decision on
euthanasia isn’t so abrupt.
Supporting Stocking is an ensemble of great depth. Kip Gilman
flawlessly switches hats from the patronizing Ralph Edwards of
Gretty’s dreams to Dr. Caplin, the insensitive head of the nursing
home in which she is confined. Lighting up her every scene is Pamela
Gordon as McCloud, a fellow patient whose pathologically tall tales
provide comic relief while revealing her fear of losing Gretty.
Jennifer Chu as Hideko is Gretty’s psychological counterpoint,
all mirth and excitement, until she relives with shocking detail the
morning of the A-bomb. Compassion arrives in the form of Gretty’s new
physician, Dr. Henry, played by Jay Underwood. Torn between his
medical responsibilities and a strange awakening of romantic feelings
for his patient, Underwood gives this character a believable sense of
Reflecting Gretty’s hopelessness is Daniel Saks’ institutionally
gray scenic design divided between her room and multifunctional
areas, including a sloping, semicircular upstage platform. Jeremy
Pivnick’s lighting is exquisite, particularly a swirling solar-system
effect on an upstage curtain. Allison Achauer’s costumes are 1950s
appropriate, while Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound design is
heartstopping when we, along with Gretty, witness the bomb blast.