|Photo credit: Band of Toughs|
Playwright: Adam Bock
Venue: We’re House Performing Arts Center, 5763 Arapahoe Avenue, Unit P, Boulder, CO
Company: Band of Toughs
Date of Performance: Friday, October 19, 2012
Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission).
Work is a four letter word. We trade time for money. We are expected to please the boss, even if he or she is clueless. We put up with it despite the drudgery and the constant friction between the “leadership” and the assorted misfits who pass for co-workers. It almost doesn’t matter what the workplace is; we sell our time and talent to the highest bidder and then try to survive a toxic environment, one day at a time.
“The Thugs” is a 90 minute visit with seven characters trapped in a modern “Myth of Sisyphus.” It’s a little scary; I recognized many of the characters from my own work experience:
· The one who sucks up to the boss and snitches on the rest of us.
· The boss who is clueless.
· The slacker who pretends to work.
· The one who whispers gossip, just to stir things up.
· The co-worker who is a little crazy, takes credit for your work, and whines to the boss when he or she isn’t getting enough attention.
I know these people. And chances are you do too.
Adam Bock’s script (he also authored one of my favorite new plays, "A Small Fire") tosses these “temp” worker stereotypes into a mind-numbing task: reviewing class action documents at a law firm. That task can suck the heart and soul out of any sane person. Mercedes (Colleen Mylott) and Elaine (Cynthia Ward) don’t start out with a particularly good grasp on their sanity. The others start losing theirs as well as the focus turns from work to survival.
The performances here are spot on. Colleen Mylott (Mercedes) is the perfect snitch. She’s socially deficient, insecure, and on a never ending, but futile, search for acceptance. Elaine (Cynthia Ward) is a perfect mix of pouty, provocative, and brief episodes of becoming slightly unhinged. Laura Ann Samuelson (Daphne), the gum chewing slacker whose boyfriend knocks her around, is bound for tragedy. Bart (Matt Madsen) is the crew’s gossiper, and he nails it.
Fortunately, there is one temp who seems fairly normal. Mary (Alana Eve Burman) tries unsuccessfully to bring the crazies back from the edge. In one of the best scenes in the show, she takes a two minute vacation from the whole mess, putting on her headphones and dancing to the music in her head. That two minute dance reminds us that we all need to escape the craziness from time to time, even if it’s just a brief respite.
Director Rebecca Easton carefully paces the show by raising and lowering the lighting between scenes to demonstrate the passing of time. Some of those scene changes resemble photographs; the characters are briefly seen posed in a realistic portrait. The effect is quite extraordinary.
Easton also makes creative use of the limitations of the warehouse space. The stairway needed to get backstage becomes an access to the rest of the world. The banker boxes stored upstage provide seclusion for Joey to confront Daphne. Easton injects abundant doses of reality into the entire performance; when the crew goes to lunch, they are eating real food at their desks and tables.
This production is a quirky, interesting venture into a working world we know. It’s a place we go to every day, and escape from every night. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a law office, a restaurant, a hospital, a school, or anywhere else. You’ll see the same characters in every work place. This play works because it holds up a mirror to our lives.
If you’re looking for interesting, edgy theater that will entertain you and perhaps enlighten you, check out “The Thugs.” You will definitely enjoy the performances, the characters, and the tasks they have. Heads up, though. You may look at work differently on Monday morning when you punch in.
This show runs through Saturday, November 3, 2012. If you haven’t been to this venue before (or to the nearby Avery Brewery), leave a little early. It’s in a complex of small businesses, set back from the street. Be careful where you park; some of the available spaces are reserved for other businesses.
Director: Rebecca Easton
Production Designer: Andrew Metzroth
Sound Designer: David Ortolano
Diane: Joan Bruemmer
Mary: Alana Eve Burman
Chantal: Gustine Fudickar
Joey: Kevin Lowry
Bart: Matt Madsen
Mercedes: Colleen Mylott
Daphne: Laura Ann Samuelson
Elaine: Cynthia Ward