Atlanta actress and playwright Daryl Lisa Fazio pulls double duty in “Safety Net,” Theatrical Outfit’s premiere production of her latest drama, in which she also stars as Chris Dove, a suitably overworked fire captain in a fictional Alabama town.
Chris shares a fixer-upper of an old house with her similarly aging mother, the spirited but infirmed Xenia (Carolyn Cook). Watching as her daughter gets into her uniform for another 12-hour shift down at the station, Xenia tells Chris, “You look like a soldier going off to war.”
Indeed. As if fighting fires weren’t hazardous enough, the bulk of Chris’ workload of late is serving as a first responder to an ever-increasing flurry of 911 calls involving the opioid epidemic raging through their rural community. It’s no wonder that, when she learns Xenia has returned from a recent hospital stay with an Oxycontin prescription to help deal with her chronic back pain, Chris’ first response is to promptly flush the pills down the toilet.
Enter the homeless loner Val Croley (Rhyn McLemore Saver), a recovering fentanyl addict who has been “clean and sober” since Chris saved her life from an overdose several months earlier. The Doves welcome her into their home—and what’s left of their family, which is still reeling from the overdose death of their drug-addicted son and brother, Billy, some two years ago.
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There’s more to Val than initially meets the eye, as it happens. Not only is Chris surprised to discover that the two of them used to be high-school classmates, but Val also reveals her own personal history with the troubled Billy. Although each of the three women has a different reason for grappling with her guilt and shame about his sad end, together they form a bond.
As a local playwright, Fazio’s previous credits include Horizon’s supernatural caper “Freed Spirits,” Aurora’s racial drama “Split in Three,” and Actor’s Express’ romantic comedy “The Flower Room.” “Safety Net” is a more overt morality play, with an important (albeit uninspired) message to impart about the perils of drug abuse, but the fine Karen Robinson directs the Outfit show with a delicate touch that generally avoids succumbing to heavy-handedness.
As an actress, Fazio (who last appeared as the mother of the Outfit’s “Boy”) isn’t the most gripping stage presence. She stands her ground admirably opposite the resourceful likes of Cook and Saver, but isolated scenes in which Chris interacts with the audience (filling in as members of a staff meeting or as a homeless crowd during a welfare check) don’t fully register.
Among Robinson’s design team: Stephanie Polhemus designed the rough-hewn set; the subtle lighting is by the formidable Mike Post; and Jeff Millsaps supplies an effective soundtrack of distress calls, two-way radio transmissions and other computerized scanning mechanisms.
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The characters in “Safety Net” are keenly aware that drug addicts hurt others as much as themselves. One of Chris’ biggest occupational hazards is that, in confronting a seemingly endless barrage of overdoses, “It gets harder to keep caring.” But so does she ultimately receive a fringe benefit of sorts, thanks to Xenia and Val, and the power in taking care of those who care for others.
Through Nov. 10. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 7:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 28 only); 2:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 2 only); 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 6 only). $15-$45. Balzer Theater at Herren’s, 84 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta. 678-528-1500. theatricaloutfit.org.
Bottom line: A sober drama.
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