“Simon says let the games begin,” and so they do, at the opening of Chasing Jack, a new play by John S Anastasi, M.D. As directed by Peter J Loewy, Chasing Jack is a smart and rewarding new courtroom play, which opens with two questions, “Why is he dead and was the surgery even necessary?” It includes other smart lines such as, “I accept mediocrity as the standard. It wouldn’t hurt you to be a little like me.” “I am. I’m divorced.” “I’m glad you decided to emulate my better qualities.” And consider: “This was a complication with an unusual presentation. Bad shit happens to good people.”
Dr. Jack Chase is a respected heart surgeon as well as a chronic gambler, which is the equivalent of being an alcoholic. Unfortunately, Emanuele Secci, who plays Jack, no less, is obvious and dull—not to mention overly quiet and hard to hear, which definitely interferes with our appreciation of the play. The writing, however, is quite smart, as when a character says, “There is a part of you that transcends your faults.” And there are also real assets in the performances by Rachel Emmanuela Frost as the lawyer for the defense Taylor Barrett, as well as Alejandra Mangini as the wife of the deceased, Rebecca James, a nurse at the hospital. Judge Boyer (Robert Eigen), however, is too soft-spoken and difficult to hear, even in the intimate space of The Jerry Orbach Theater.
Set in New York at the present time, the many scenes of Chasing Jack occur “without interruption” between a courtroom, an OR locker room, Jack’s office, a hospital waiting room, and Taylor’s office. And given the length—roughly a hundred and ten minutes—there should have been an intermission but wasn’t. Perhaps the director was afraid that too many people would have left, even though that would have been a mistake on all of their parts. On the other hand, there are also continual problems with the lighting cues, which are usually delayed or late. (The faulty lighting design is by Jak Prince; the nondescript sound design by Mark Baron.) Perhaps the production opened prematurely or earlier than it should have.
Dennis Brito gives the most nuanced performance as Michael Ockerman, and Rachel Emmanuela Frost is impressive as Taylor Barrett, “the best malpractice lawyer,” another character, Robert (Richard Clodfelter as Jack’s partner), knows. Caroline Sposto also stands out as Dr. Maxine Noel, the expert witness for the defense.
Chasing Jack (open run Saturdays at 5 Pm starting November 6, 2021)
Actors Temple Theatre, 339 W. 47th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Chasing-Jack/Overview
For more information: http://www.ChasingJackThePlay.com
Running time: one hour and 50 minutes