Randall David Cook’s Fate’s Imagination

Theatre Review

Written by Randall David Cook

Reviewed by Debbie Lee & Brian Hersey

(Summer 2007 Issue of the JETAA NY Newsletter)

JET Alum Randall David Cook, playwright of Sake With the Haiku Geisha, recently debuted his second off-Broadway play, Fate’s Imagination, which ran at the Players Theatre in the West Village from May 25 through June 17, 2007.

Imagine waiting years for your husband/wife/lover to come back to you.  Imagine reading the news about young people your age dying in a war and knowing your mother may be the decision-maker who will keep them there.  Imagine turning your back on everything; your family and your own happiness, so that you can win a high-powered job in Washington.  These kinds of all-consuming obsessions form the emotional core of Fate’s Imagination, playwright and JET alumnus Randall David Cook’s latest work.

The play begins with Brock, played by Jed Orlemann, a twenty-something writer, who encounters an older, somewhat attractive, certainly desperate woman named Lilah (Elizabeth Norment) who tells him that he reminds her of an old lover.  She quickly follows this statement with an invitation to her apartment to “fool around.”  Brock, realizing Lilah is not quite right in the head, is nevertheless drawn by her desperation and his own curiosity to her apartment.

What we later forget when these two inevitably fall in love are those early scenes where Lilah hallucinates, mistakes Brock for her former lover, and begs him to stay the night with her.  She is dangerously lost in the past.  It’s this glimpse of her complexity, possibly forgotten by the end of the play when she emerges as something stronger, that humanizes her and shows the effects of years of unrequited love, like a disease tearing away at her mind and memory.

Brock is the typical twenty-something — headstrong, invincible, impressionable — whose job involves posting obituaries of each casualty of an unnamed overseas conflict.  He is brought to life, however, by scenes with his mother, a Hillary-esqe politician (Donna Mitchell) running for the presidential office.  Brock is affected by her lack of sympathy, by feeling double the amount of turmoil and guilt for his mother’s inaction at the time the war was launched.  His relationship with Lilah begins as manipulation on his part yet quickly turns into a real exchange of ideas, and ends with both characters almost surprised at the strength of their feelings for one another.

Brock’s mother is polished, selfish, multifaceted, coldly detached and the hardest character to sympathize with.  She provides us with a monologue about her cheating husband, a man who provided her with gifts whenever he cheated on her.  She gleefully tells us how she was able to manipulate him further so that gifts of diamonds turned to contributions of money to the public and then eventually a seat in the Senate for her.  The play begs the question, “Is this the type of woman that we want in the presidential office?”

The storyline is highlighted by camera flashes, political speeches in the form of commercial breaks, and blog entries.  There is plenty of witty dialogue and a creative use of space.  The play ends with an amusing plot twist and takes you by surprise.

In sum, another entertaining play from the most prolific JET alum on (or off) Broadway!

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