By Michelle F. Solomon, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com, for SouthFloridaReporter.com, July 1, 2015 – Miami’s Ground Up & Rising production of Jonathan Caren’s The Recommendation is compelling on so many levels. Yet, what makes it so formidable doesn’t have much to do with the actors on stage; it’s more about what happens in between the lines.
Playwright Caren’s engaging script about promises and betrayals, secrets and lies, the privileged and the not-so privileged, and what we all do to get ahead no matter what class structure we’re born into, presents three distinct character studies, yet each serves to mirror desires and defects to one another. Caren’s multi-layered script creates an unraveling that is like a page turner that you won’t want to put down.
Add to this director/producer Arturo Rossi’s vision; he not only digs deep into Caren’s message, but adds his own layer of intrigue through his directing, which brings out the best in a cast that is less than seasoned and then goes a step further by peppering the play with subtleties to make it all the more edgy. What may be overlooked, but shouldn’t be by theatergoers, is Rossi’s sound design — a soundtrack that heightens the tenseness of the atmosphere. (As an aside, I would have loved to have been able to download Rossi’s The Recommendationsoundtrack or see it for sale at the back of the house. A fundraising mechanism for the scrappy company perhaps?)
A pair of black and white tennis shoes, hi-tops, sits in front of a black bench. Two black panels are on either side of the minimalist set stage — on each a couple of coat hooks. The starkness of the stage becomes an appropriate backdrop as Caren progressively unravels each character, so that by the end each has shown their true colors and faced their own shortcomings and fears.