Theatre News

In the News: New Randolph College Professor Takes on Reckless play

October 27, 2010
Mace Archer and his first Randolph production are featured in the News & Advance

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The following story was published in the Lynchburg News & Advance October 27, 2010. It is reprinted with permission.

By Casey Gillis

When Mace Archer joined Randolph College’s theater department this year, chairman Ken Parks had an important question for him.

“He asked me, ‘What do you want to make your mark with?’” says Archer, who took the job after spending three years freelancing as an actor and director. “It’s a tough question.”

Archer eventually settled on Craig Lucas’ “Reckless,” which he describes as an “idiosyncratic, contemporary dark comedy,” for the department’s first production of the season, and his first at the helm as a Randolph professor.

He appeared in the play about 10 years ago and always wanted to direct it because of the challenges it presents.

“It’s a tricky little play to land,” Archer says. “It has that quality of, ‘Am I supposed to laugh at this, or cry about this?’ Finding that balance is really tough in a tragic comedy.”

The play begins with what he says is “the best opening of a play, ever.”

On Christmas Eve, a woman named Rachel — a role that’s been played by Mary-Louise Parker off-Broadway and Mia Farrow in the 1995 film version — gets some distressing news from her husband: He has hired a hitman to kill her.

“She has to escape this situation,” Archer says. “ She literally has to take up a new identity and a new life.

“The question of the play is, ‘How would it feel if everything you relied on … was immediately taken from you?”

After her husband’s admission, Rachel scrambles out of the kitchen window and out into the snowy night, where she meets a new cast of characters who take her in.

It all sounds very dark, but Archer says Rachel’s journey leads to some very funny moments, especially as she digs herself in deeper and deeper with lies about her true identity.

“She ends up in places where she can’t tell the truth, and she finds herself in these ridiculous situations,” Archer says.

“Every character in the play ends up revealing things about themselves that are huge surprises to the audience.”

The play falls right in line with what Archer says he loves to do: contemporary theater that resonates with audiences.

“I love plays that talk about the issues of the day,” says the Montana native, who taught at Montana State University and later founded a theater company there before he began freelancing.

“I think theater has the ability to add to the debate. Art doesn’t create the answers. It asks the questions. I hope we can ask some really good questions.”

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