Good Television

Critics' pick
1/5
Photograph: Kevin Thomas Garcia

Good Television

2/5
Photograph: Kevin Thomas Garcia

Good Television

3/5
Photograph: Kevin Thomas Garcia
Good Television
4/5
Photograph: Kevin Thomas Garcia
Good Television
5/5
Photograph: Kevin Thomas Garcia
Good Television

Good Television. Atlantic Stage 2 (Off Broadway). By Rod McLachlan. Dir. Bob Krakower. With Kelly McAndrew, Talia Balsam. 1hr 45mins. One intermission.

Good Television plot synopsis:

A reality-TV producer travels to South Carolina to interview a meth addict in the Off Broadway playwriting debut of Atlantic ensembler Rod McLachlan. Bob Krakower directs.

Good Television theater review:

“We’re ‘documentary,’ not ‘reality,’ ” explains Bernice (Talia Balsam), the producer of a hit Intervention-like show in Rod McLachlan’s compelling Good Television. “What we shoot is the real deal.” And Rehabilitation really does offer a bang-up deal to its subjects: the chance to fight their troubles (alcoholism, drug addiction, anorexia) at expensive treatment centers, in exchange for sharing their stories with millions of viewers who want to believe in second chances. If everybody wins in this scenario, however, it’s because losers are filtered out in advance. Rehabilitation’s ace field producer, Connie (the superbly persuasive Kelly McAndrew), employs her background as a therapist to vet prospective subjects and choose the ones most likely to recover: “If I can’t help them then I don’t want to meet them,” she says. She’s hooked on happy endings.

Against her better judgment, Connie winds up in rural South Carolina—joined by her soon-to-be boss (Andrew Stewart-Jones) and an eager new associate (Jessica Cummings)—to help a skittish young  tweaker (John Magaro) and his overburdened sister (Zoe Perry). As the value systems of therapy, media and family collide, McLachlan finds smart ways to bleed them into each other, raising pertinent questions without demonizing the characters or maligning their professional abilities. (Balsam’s apple-martini–loving Hollywood executive hovers deliciously close to parody but doesn’t tip into it.) And Bob Krakower’s cast lifts the production with consistent, convincing performances. Even when the first-time playwright lapses into overexplanation, most damagingly in the final scene, the actors keep it real.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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