Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review of "Gloria"

The play Gloria, extended through July 18th at the Vineyard Theatre, is a scathing indictment and assessment of today’s publishing industry.  It is also a blistering mediation on career mobility, interpersonal relationships and the cold-hearted insensitivity individuals show in order to make the deal.  Everything is framed within a cataclysmic event that forever changes people’s lives.

We are introduced to a number of employees at an unnamed magazine—Dean, a burnt out assistant to the editor, with dreams of becoming a writer; Ani, a care-free member of the back room staff; Kendra, a flippant, holier-than-thou worker; Miles, an Ivy League intern; Lorin, the harried and frustrated fact checker; and Gloria, a long time, slightly off and reticent employee.  They bicker, argue, condescend and console one another.  Suddenly, without warning, a catastrophe occurs just before the curtain for Act I descends.  Act 2, which begins a few months later, looks at the aftermath of this devastating occurrence.  I am being coy in my description so as not to spoil the shocker playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins has so perfectly woven into the story.

The cast—Kyle Beltran, Catherine Combs, Michael Crane, Jennifer Kim, Jeanine Serralles and Ryan Spahn--are a joy to watch.  Each play multiple roles and become lost within each their characters.  They perform as a true collective, which only magnifies the action on the small stage.

Playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins pummels the old media of print journalism and publishing as well as taking a mighty swing at the new media of today.  He has crafted conversations that seem so heartfelt and real, whether between squabbling office mates or two former colleagues sharing a coffee at Starbucks.  I felt like I was ease dropping on the goings on at a highly dysfunctional office or on private, inimate conversations.  The author builds up to the Act I climax slowly, without much warning, providing a heightened buzz at intermission.  He continues to surprise, shock and confound throughout the play.

Director Evan Cabnet has molded his group of actors into a finely tuned machine.  They are not robotic.  Far from it.  The players are just so in sync with each other.  Each member of the troupe knows their part and how it fits into the larger whole.  This is truly an ensemble effort.  Cabnet is adept at staging the messier office battles as well as the quieter junctures of the production, which still pack a wallop and can momentarily stun.

Gloria, only through July 18th at the Vineyard Theatre.  Not to be missed.

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