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Fantasy helps shed light on reality

Dink O’Neal

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

inner conflict.

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.


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