By: Sandi Durell
The only thing missing are the boxing gloves in 30 year old Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ (An Octoroon, Appropriate) latest commentary, this on the state of twenty-something editorial assistants clawing their way to get their bosses’ jobs at a magazine publishing house. This dark satire is funny, sad, deeply disturbing and revealing as Evan Cabnet deliciously molds this talented cast like putty in his hands at the Vineyard Theatre.
If you want the scoop on how the media shapes lives, visit any magazine publishing office or let Jenkins give you his interpretation after working at the New Yorker as we watch ambitiously crazed and nasty, just out of college, Kendra (Jennifer Kim), who spends more time on breaks at Starbucks, go after a soused Dean (Ryan Spahn), the only person from their little group of cubicle workers to attend the mousy, socially inept Gloria’s (Jeanine Serralles) party the night before. Sweet and logical Ani (Catherine Combs) is somewhat above it all but has her moments of angst. Sharing the cubicles is Miles (Kyle Beltran), the intern who is tuned out listening to music on his earphones and mostly busy as a gopher for the group. Is he after someone’s job?
The most telling and soul-baring scene comes from Lorin (Michael Crane), who is 37 years old and heads up the fact-checking department, making appearances complaining about all the noise coming from the cubicles, as he breaks down over his failing career.
And then there’s Nan (also Serralles), a boss secluded in her office behind closed doors, who we hear throwing up, but don’t yet see, served by her assistant Dean.
Act I ends violently and unexpectedly as we move into Act II about a year later as Dean and Kendra meet at a Starbucks and come to blows about their respective book deals regarding the gruesome office incident. They don’t mince words and things do get ugly. This is when we also get to see Beltran take on the role of a limping, behind the counter, coffee slinger privy to all the post-traumas, including a very pregnant Nan meeting with her friend Sasha (Combs), an editor at a publishing house, persuading Nan to recount her take on the life-changing incident involving Gloria (this the only scene that seemed to drag a bit).
Fast forward several years to an LA film company office (cast members playing other roles), with set designs that have easily morphed at the hand of Takeshi Kata through two different offices and the coffee shop (aided by top notch lighting design by Matt Frey), and life is still in the fast lane of dog eat dog – just another exploitive media outlet. Looks like Nan got the top book deal that will now result in a film but, lo and behold, Lorin shows up as a temp dampening the moment and giving the real blow by blow of who was where and what actually happened when the tragedy took place years back.
Without a doubt, Jenkins is a playwright of note and I eagerly look forward to seeing more of his work.
Gloria – 2 hrs. 5 minutes with intermission, extended thru July 18th, Vineyard Theatre, 108 East 15th Street, NYC www.vineyardtheatre.org
Photos: Carol Rosegg