Workplace depression is not an officially recognized medical condition, but that does not stop Schmidt Pharma from trying to develop a lucrative cure for what ails so many of us. That includes Meena Pierotti, managing editor of American Cattle and Swine magazine, a trade publication so dreary that depression seems the logical response to employment there.
Meena is the central character of Rx, Kate Fodor’s satirical jab at Big Pharma, the corporate mentality, our craving for a pill to eradicate our ills and a send-up of that most mysterious of all afflictions — love. While the play is hardly the savage skewering that the pharmaceutical industry deserves, it is an entertaining comedy served up with a wink and a nudge by Boca Stage and directed with assurance by Genie Croft.
When we first meet Meena (the fetching-even-when-glum Elizabeth Price), she is being interviewed by Dr. Phil Gray (teddy-bearish Timothy Mark Davis) to determine her suitability for the workplace depression drug’s clinical trial. She certainly qualifies on the depression requirement, since she admits to leaving her office twice a day and going to a nearby department store’s old lady underwear section for a good crying jag.
So she is issued a bi-weekly supply of SP925 (or perhaps a placebo) and not only perks up at work, but she jumps into a sexual affair with Dr. Gray — a clear violation of company policy and medical protocol.
As their illicit relationship develops, Dr. Gray opens up to Meena about his own workplace unhappiness and a desire to chuck his job and travel to Africa where his medical skills can be put to better use. For her part, Meena is willing to follow him to Africa, where she would pursue her long-deferred career passion, writing poetry.
All of this transpires in brief black-out scenes, not unlike the panels of a drily humorous comic strip. While Meena and Phil are at the center of Rx, playwright Fodor tosses in an amusing gaggle of supporting characters. There’s the overly chipper Schmidt Pharma management exec Allison (fashionable Janice Hamilton), who, as the comedy gets broader in the second act, becomes a sloshing drunk. There’s bumbling Dr. Ed (Jim Gibbons), who had a distinct resemblance — visually and in demeanor — to Albert Einstein.
There’s a Schmidt marketing whiz, eager to rebrand SP925 as Thriveon (“You can thrive from 9 to 5”) played by, of all people, Boca Stage’s artistic director Keith Garsson. And there’s the always welcome Laura Turnbull as ditzy Frances, a potential customer of those old lady undies. Just when we have written off her character as mere comic relief, she returns in Act Two in a hospital bed, dying from metastasized breast cancer.
A cast of seven is probably a record for Boca Stage, as are the number of modular sets, designed by Dustin Hamilton and constantly moved about by a pair of hardworking stagehands.
Despite its occasional moments on the edge of mortality — Did I mention that Dr. Gray is given the wrong pill for his heartbreak and comes close to dying? — Rx is an effective prescription for those in need of a little mirth.
Rx, Boca Stage at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Feb. 6. $40. 561-447-8829, or visit bocastage.org.