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Theater review: ‘Rx’ is a charming, funny cure for lousy weather blues

Weather got you down? There’s a cure for that.

It’s Renegade Theater Company’s superb production of Kate Fodor’s play “Rx,” which opened Thursday at Teatro Zuccone.

Fodor has melded a charming romantic comedy with a rapier-like satire of Big Pharma. Renegade’s production, directed by Robert Lee, features engaging performances by a talented cast.

Foremost among the performers is Mary Fox as Meena Pierotti, who is so unhappy with her job as managing editor of American Cattle and Swine magazine that she flees to the older woman’s section of a department store underwear department a couple of times a day to weep.

Fox’s Meena draws your immediate sympathy with luminous eyes and a tentative smile as she’s interviewed for possible inclusion in a trial of a drug, tentatively named Thriveon, that will make people love their jobs.

The interview is conducted by Dr. Phil Gray, played finely by Cory Anderson, and she ultimately is accepted as a test subject, meaning she’s examined regularly by Gray, which leads to their falling in love. Their realization is a warm and tender moment.

But Gray has workplace issues of his own, mostly turning on his employer’s emphasis on profit. As he explains to Meena, “I don’t get sent to screen the working poor” — the margin’s too small.

The company is personified in Allison, Gray’s team leader, portrayed by Katy Helbacka as a gleefully purposeful guardian of corporate policy (right down to the placement of in-and-out trays) and zealot of the profitability mission.

Evan Kelly’s set is a set of standard sterile cubicle walls, sections of which pop open to reveal the key elements of a doctor’s office or the underwear section of a department store.

It’s from the latter that Cathy Berggren emerges as Frances, the simple, slightly dotty old woman whose zest for life creates a striking contrast with Meena’s despair.

The cast also includes the reliably excellent Zachary Stofer, who plays both a corporate minion and one of Gray’s research colleagues suffering from stuffy grandiosity.

Though not a musical, the production includes interludes by Blake Thomas, who strolls like a troubadour into and through scenes, singing and playing his guitar. It also includes a couple of dance numbers, one of which — a dream sequence at the close of Act I — is notably original, funny and very well-executed.

A notice at the entrance to the theater cautions most deservedly that the production includes material suitable only for adults.

If you go

What: Renegade Theater Company’s “Rx”

Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.

When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday and Thursday – Saturday through May 24

How much: $18, but $15 for students and seniors

For information: renegadetheatercompany.org

Paul Brissett is a local writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions. He can be next seen in “Barefoot in the Park,” opening in mid-June at the Encore Center in Cloquet.

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