Showbusiness Weekly, April, 2004

by Amy Rhodes
The Fame Game

On The Newlyweds, MTV's reality series about a semi-successful pop star's semi- successful marriage, viewers are treated to an in-depth look at the everyday lives of the rich and famous. Will wife Jessica Simpson ever learn to cook? Will Nick Lachey learn to handle being Mr. Jessica Simpson? Will the couple finally decide to get a dog? The Newlyweds is just one of the many shows capitalizing on a culture that is increasingly obsessed with the lives of celebrities.

In The Wreck Behind Us, playwright and director Roland Tec's takes a unique look at this obsession. Instead of exploring the life of an icon, Tec's play focuses on the death of an actress who is on the cusp of superstardom. Based on a true story, The Wreck Behind Us is the story of the sudden death of soap actress Evelyn Beckett and the aftermath of what it left behind.Told through a series of four monologues, The Wreck Behind Us spans almost three decades.

The play opens in 1996, with Evelyn's grown-up and openly gay son, Charlie Stimson (Taylor Mac Bowyer), talking to a man he picked up at a bar and brought back to his apartment. Charlie nervously explains the details of his dysfunctional living situation (he is currently living with his ailing father), then, almost compulsively, shares the secrets of his childhood. His soap star mother, Charlie relates, was killed in a car accident when he was young, and his alcoholic father was driving the car. Just as Charlie unravels in front of his "date," so too do the other characters in the play.

As the play travels back in time, ending in 1969, the world Charlie grew up in is slowly revealed, and dark family secrets are exposed.As both playwright and director, Tec easily handles the task of keeping the monologues active and engaging. His writing is rich, giving his actors great material to work with and they are all clearly up to the task. Mac Bowyer as Charlie, Cori Lynn Campbell as Evelyn Beckett and Chris Arruda as the father, are outstanding.

Finding both the humor and haunting sadness in their stories, each actor brings depth and vulnerability to their characters. Roland Tec, filling in for Tom Bozell as Charlie's prep school dean, wonderfully rounds out the cast. Though none of the actors are ever onstage together, they manage to create a tight ensemble.

The Wreck Behind Us beautifully explores the trappings of fame and the desire to love and be loved. And, unlike The Newlyweds, it will leave you with a lot to think about.