Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
By Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Staring Sarah Matthews and John Hamilton Rice
In a room full of interns, wage slaves suffer under the sickly glow of work place desperation. Options are limited: work hard to impress the boss, do just enough to get a recommendation, or slack off and spend every dime at Starbucks. A tough call, but I’m going with coffee. Miles (Patrick Jackson) choses Xeroxing with a smile and a positive attitude, Kendra (Jen Chia) drips attitude and lives at Starbucks, and Dean(Zach Roundy) drinks himself sober every morning but functions well enough hungover. He’s the pro here. Only long suffering Lorin (John Hamilton Rice gets any real sympathy; he’s in his late 30’s going on “Too old to work in magazines,” and he lacks the potential of any internet kiddie, showing that skill and experience no longer matter. That just leaves weirded out Gloria (Matthews) in her space case attitude of “why am I here again?” Then tragedy strikes, and we go through the five stages of guilt: Disbelief, changing jobs, rationalization the motivations, look for an angle to exploit, and finally the disbursement of rewards to all those quick enough to jump on the next band wagon.
Thrilling and dark, this parable of the modern work place shows the age old adage of “something is gonna get you.” The black death and invasion by the French are long gone, but enough new site-specific killers have evolved to keep the harvesting of the young a thriving business. Everyone except Lorin play multiple roles, and he’s the only really likable voice in this blender. Ms. Matthew’s best work occurs in the second act as she graciously and smoothly hijacks someone else’s experience and tragedy to get a book deal. Mr. Roundy does what he always does best: give us an unbalanced yet potentially dangerous young man with something to prove, or maybe nothing. His result is constant in either case. Kristen Shirilla covers the nice girl role, in Act One she’s the Pollyanna of this doomed troop ship and in Act Two she down shifts slightly as Every Woman confused by what happened. But through thick and thin, Rice’s Loren accepts his station, and realize maybe publishing was a bad job choice in the world of diminishing print options.
It a tough and brutal story, and on this weekend of Shows With Trigger Warnings you might tread lightly and sit in the back, not that it gives much cover. But if you need a frank look at the reality of modern tragedy, this powerful script ought to lead to a heated argument on the way home.