Rod McLachlan’s curious play, GOOD TELEVISION (playing through May 17th at Zeitgeist Stage Company), is actually based in reality: A show called INTERVENTION ran for 13 seasons on A&E, turning a camera on real families as they confronted their addicted sister/brother/daughter/son/mother etc.
McLachlin spends Act I mostly with the television crew as they plan their next intervention episode---which is in essence an ambush—because if the addict knew ahead of time, he would bolt and there wouldn’t be a show. McLachlin introduces us to the professional counselor (Christine Power) who skillfully interviews the participants (and persuades, or rather, manipulates them into signing on the dotted line).
We meet the current producer (Shelley Brown) who wants to keep three million viewers glued to her show, the film school grad (Tasia Jones) who wants to “make a difference” and the new boss (William Bowry) who is, as the WHO would say, “just like the old boss.” Oh, and there’s the obligatory addict (Ben Lewin) without a snowball’s chance in hell of recovering. So, do they waste a show on someone with no hope? So far, so GOOD.
Alas, in Act II McLachlan throws everything but the kitchenette sink at the dysfunctional South Carolina family, as if one reason for the son’s addiction isn’t nearly enough. No wonder the trailer home looks so spacious. It has to contain two cameras, light poles, the TV crew, that kitchen, several bedrooms, a fist fight and enough pathology for a half dozen shows.
It’s the psychiatric stuff that had me shaking my head and raising my hackles. Much is made of whether or not poor Clemmy is (gasp) gay—and why he “turned” gay and headed for the meth dealer. The family equates “gay” with pathology and none of the professionals refute it. The sister’s husband, now gone, evidently forced himself on the boy, which trumps the brutality visited on him by his father! According to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM IV-TR, pedophiles are more likely to be heterosexual. And is it even necessary to point out that homosexuality is not pathological?
In addition, the playwright plays fast and loose with turn around time. The sister (Jenny Reagan) learns what her husband did to her brother, exits in denial and not two minutes later reenters with apologies all around for not noticing (in a trailer, mind you). This family can skip years of therapy for the two minute cure!
Act I had me hooked but I didn’t buy any of Act II despite some terrific performances from director David Miller’s cast.