San Jose Rep presents
By Bob Clyman
Directed by Chris Smith

Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.

If you want drama so real it feels as if you are eavesdropping on people you know and have seen too many times before, don’t miss this amazing production now playing at San Jose Repertory Theatre. “SECRET ORDER is about cutting-edge discoveries, chasing dreams and the powerful allure of the big prize,” says director Chris Smith. Indeed, your attention will never waver in this gripping drama by Bob Clyman now playing at San Jose Repertory Theatre. Every moment of this fast-paced production is orchestrated so carefully that movement and scene changes melt into spellbinding dance routines. What we see on stage is far more than dialogue and plot. Scenic designer David Lee Cuthbert coordinated his efforts with Pamila Z. Gray’s fantastic use of light to emphasize the conversations that ricochet like bullets between characters. Steve Schoenbeck designed a musical backdrop as vital to the staging as the desks, chairs and lab equipment. SECRET ORDER tells the story of a gifted, idealistic young research scientist, William Shumway (James Wagner) who has discovered what he believes is a definitive cure for cancer. Robert Brock (Robert Krakovski) hears of Shumway’s work and invites him to continue his research at the cancer research institute he directs in New York City. Brock is past fifty living the dream he never had by promoting and encouraging Shumway’s work. Both men are certain that the younger man’s discoveries will end the disease forever despite evidence to the contrary.

This play is far more than the story of scientific fraud or an unprincipled gallop toward professional distinction. It is a modern moral drama, one perfectly crafted by its author. Clyman is a clinical psychologist who writes his prize-winning plays between appointments with his patients. He knows all too well the secret motivations behind our words. The veracity of this dialogue is unmistakable. There is not an artificial phrase, a false sequence in the speech of every character. Real people have said and thought everything these people convey on that stage. The audience is right there feeling the push of ambition, the heady excitement of discovery, and terrible loss that failure might bring to these men and the girl who believes in their work. “SECRET ORDER makes us feel the thrill of discovery along with the tug of responsibility and ethics,” says Rick Lombardo, the Rep’s Artistic Director.

The acting in this production is stunning. Robert Krakovski gives his character the bravado, the determination and the pathos of a man on the downside of what could have been a stellar career now left with peddling other men’s discoveries. Krakovski is not delivering lines. He is that man we all know who sacrificed his family for his ambition and realizes too late that the creativity that was once his hallmark is gone. His ideas have all been said and done and he must look elsewhere for that unique discovery he never found. He sees his last chance for making his mark in Shumway’s discovery and has tied his star to Shumway’s success. “(SECRET ORDER) refers to a certain dynamic, sometimes unconscious and often problematical, that can insinuate itself into human communication,” says Bob Clyman. “The desire to control another person with the willingness to acknowledge that we are making that choice. We may be effectively issuing an implicit ‘order’ to the other person, but the order is so obscure that this person isn’t exactly sure what it is we’re doing –and neither are we.”

James Wagner (Shumway) conveys his confusion between what his supervisor says and what he means not just in words but in his expression, his walk, his very posture. Julian Lopez-Morillas is an amazing talent. Never has he been more challenged than breathing life into the stereotypical character of Saul Roth. Roth is a Jewish scientist who is little more than departmental decoration in danger of being demolished by the aggressive and ambitious Brock. His lines are riddled with clichéd references to his wife’s shopping and his love of food, and expected jabs at his memory loss, but Lopez-Morillas gives us the human being inside the preconceived profile of a Jewish intellectual gone to seed. He elevates Saul Roth into a desperate, determined human being who will stop at nothing to destroy those who threaten him. His performance is unforgettable.

And so is Kathryn Tkel as Alice Curiton, young and far more unprincipled in her eagerness to be part of Shumway’s discovery and carry it to success. She is adorable, funny and real. …indeed she adds just the right note of delightful youth and determined pursuit of an unattainable goal…or is it really unattainable?…we will never know. The plot does not tell us that. We are left at the end never knowing if she will capitalize on Shumway’s downfall.

Don’t miss this production…it is all that good theater should be and more.

The most tragic thing in the world is a man of genius
Who is not a man of honor.
George Bernard Shaw

WHERE: 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose
WHEN: Tuesdays (7:30 pm) Wednesdays through Saturdays (8:00 pm) with matinees Saturdays (3:00 pm) and Sundays (2:00 pm) until November 7, 2010
TICKETS: $35.00-$74.00; 408 367 7255;