Reviewed by Judy Richter
A middle-aged man gets terrible news from his doctor: He has amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressively debilitating, ultimately fatal illness. Shaken, he gets into his car and starts driving -- nowhere, anywhere. It's time to take stock of his dull life. That's the premise in Michael McKeever's "Charlie Cox Runs With Scissors," presented by Marin Theatre Company under the direction of Lee Sankowich.
Charlie (Howard Swain) is an editor, a man who rarely takes chances and has never been in love. During his drive, he picks up a strange hitchhiker, Wally (Liam Vincent). With his wild hair, black fingernails and all-black attire, Wally soon reveals that he's Charlie's death personified, but only Charlie can see him. When Charlie's car breaks down in the middle of the Arizona desert, he and Wally stay in a decrepit motel run by Nell Todd (Anne Darragh), a harried widow who's at the beck and call of her ailing (offstage) father-in-law.
Charlie and Nell are attracted to each other, much to Wally's disgust. However, Wally's efforts to urge Charlie to get on with dying are offset by the arrival of another unseen presence, Kiki (Isabelle Ortega), an attractive young woman in a red dress and red high heels. She represents love, and she's blind -- rather obvious. Wally and Kiki essentially fight for Charlie's soul.
Although the outcome is predictable, the 85-minute, intermissionless play is amusing, especially in this sharp MTC production. Sankowich has assembled a first-rate design team with a set by Giulio Perrone, lighting by Jeff Rowlings, and sound and music by Norman Kern. Cathleen Edwards' costumes are especially effective for Darragh, who first appears in a ratty sweatshirt and jeans. As she and Charlie begin to connect, however, she appears in ever-nicer outfits. Her hairdo also improves.
The acting, especially by Swain and Darragh, also is first-rate. Completing the cast is Mark LaRiviere as Travis, an auto mechanic and tow-truck driver who's interested in Nell.