Jamie Pachino’s THE RETURN TO MORALITY (a Titanic Theatre production in Central Square through Sept. 25th) is a timely tale of an author embraced by the ultra right for his slick new book on “old fashioned” morality. Trouble is, the work is satire… but the publicists promoting it warn the writer to keep his mouth shut, all the way to the bank. He does and becomes the darling of the alt-right. They even want him to speak at their national convention.
One might imagine what that does to his soul. We do learn what it does to his marriage but the playwright doesn’t dwell on his inner life so much as the outward effects of his newfound celebrity. His wife goes so far as to blame the book for stoking the climate of hate in the world.
IRNE award winning director Michelle Aguillon has a crackerjack cast headed up by Adam Siladi and Alisha Jansky as the conflicted author and his horrified wife. The humor in the piece is provided by the secondary characters, who double and triple roles: especially Phil Thompson as a spectacularly ruthless, wheeler dealer publisher/and a scary right wing operative (and more), and Laura Baronet as a posture coach/a quirky hair and make-up stylist/and a seductive student with an agenda of her own.
Jennifer McCartney provides laughs as the production assistant with an unintelligible French accent/as the always polite and a little bland Meredith Viera (and more). But it’s Regine Vital who lights up the stage with the plum role of the indignant (at last, someone can recognize the truth!) talk show host/and as the respectful cop in the “good cop-bad cop” scenario (and more).
Alas, the height of the ceiling in the black box space caused some of the softer dialogue to float up, up and away, as did the two-sided playing area when the actors faced away from one side. (It’s an easy fix to have the women speak louder and have the actors “cheat,” that is, to turn three-quarters so both sides of the audience can hear.)
More problematic, for me anyway, is that real life right now is much more outrageous and downright dangerous than any fiction could portray. While the play presents clear parallels to Mr. Trump and his ilk, it only serves to distract me away from what’s happening on stage, to focus my mind on the most current shockwave. I’ll borrow from Dorothy Parker: One can barely keep up with the “fresh hell.” I’m afraid it’s the law of unintended consequences that Pachino’s play pales in comparison.