by Adam Cohen
Someone keeps mugging Eva (Megan Hill) in the kitchen at her debt collection agency office. Co-workers Howie (Justin Long) and Jordan (Ugo Chukwu) fuel the clueless sexual and abhorrent behavior in the workplace. They are practically championed by boss Jon (Greg Keller) who is forced by management to bring in empathy coach Sofia (Tiffany Villarin). At the same time, Sofia is dealing with a ripple in her parent’s relationship and ends up ignoring many of her mother’s (Jeanne Sakata) voicemails. Perhaps the empathy coach also has lessons to learn.
Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s “Do You Feel Anger” explores not only the nature of “appropriate” workplace behavior, parent/child relationships and one’s own sense of accomplishment. This is an apt, timely production strongly directed by Margot Bordelon at the Vineyard Theater. Bordelon keeps the pace lively and her adept cast, gamely inhabits characters deeply flawed people. Long, Chukwu, and Keller are hilarious in their inhumane approach to life. They offer deft, honestly clueless performances. While Hill creates a genuine Eva who teaches Sofia how to navigate the toxic workplace. Hill is brilliant in the role – gently crafting a strong survivor.
Nelson-Greenberg has a flair for uninhibited one-liners which brusquely challenge misogyny, communication and deception. An example Jon as part of his introduction to Sofia offers this: “I really want to pretend that I’m a good guy. Isn’t the situation with the homeless terrible? Just awful. They don’t have much food, but they have to eat to survive.” She creates a brutal workplace filled with heinously realistic co-workers seeking “unreciprocated blowjobs.”
Ultimately, Sofia must balance the pressures of Jon wanting the education of his staff wrapped up quickly with the progress she makes teaching his team empathy. She realizes – as the audience does – words, emotions, actions and reactions matter.
The play is richly absurdist and a successfully astringent, stinging fun-house mirror.
Tickets and more information at vineyardtheater.org. Run time 90 minutes, no intermission