Review By Steven Babyak
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ll immediately identify with the exasperated characters of Gloria, by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, now at the Vineyard Theatre. Set in a publishing office, it concerns the day-to-day lives of several assistants. They argue, play jokes on each other, and complain. Under the direction of Evan Cabnet, each character gets his/her chance to shine. This is a fast-paced drama that will stay in your mind long after it’s over. I won’t list any spoilers here, but trust me, you will learn why the play is called Gloria and you will have quite the intermission chatter.
Miles (Kyle Beltran) is the intern who receives all the grunt work. He arrives early and gracefully performs the work quietly, without ever complaining. The full-time assistants each have their own cubicles: Ani (Catherine Combs), Dean (Ryan Spahn) and Kendra (Jennifer Kim). Dean arrives late at 10:48am, hung over from last night’s party at Gloria’s. He clearly does not want to be at work; I loved his interpretation of a burned-out office worker. Ani is busy gossiping and not wanting to do much work either. Finally Kendra waltzes into the office at 11am with a big, and very full, shopping bag, and announces she has been “working” all morning. She engages in aimless chatter and makes a loud personal call. Then it’s time for her trip to Starbucks because the company has ended the coffee perk for the staff. Kim is simply brilliant at playing the lazy office worker role; I laughed at all the “hard work” she does each day. The cast is uniformly excellent and spot-on in their interpretations of office life.
Meanwhile, Lorin (Michael Crane) keeps walking over to everyone’s cubicles to tell them to hush, since he can’t work with all the noise. Gloria passes through the office, quite agitated that nobody is at their desks, since she needs their help to finish her work. Gloria is a bit of a recluse, known for working quite hard. She has saved up enough money to buy herself a house. The previous evening she threw herself a party with tons of catered food. Only 4 people showed up.
Nobody seems to be happy at the office – we hear characters complain that they’re almost age 30 and still stuck in their cubicles. They lament they’re trapped in the same pit, exploited with large workloads. The office sucks the souls out of them, and takes their youth and friends away. I felt their listlessness and sense of hopelessness.
In the second act, some of the actors take on completely different roles. Act II Scene I takes place in a Starbucks 8 months later, where old co-workers run into each other and talk about recent events. Some of the speeches in this act felt a tad long to me, but overall it felt genuine. Finally, Act II Scene II is set in a television office 2 years after the first act. Of course, bickering and gossiping are commonplace in this office too; I loved the high-energy frantic atmosphere. I especially relished Ryan Spahn’s portrayal of the exasperated IT computer guy.
Each scene begins and ends with classical music, and each scene contains quite a lot of quarreling. In this brilliant piece, it’s as if Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins is saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Gloria – Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; directed by Evan Cabnet.
With Kyle Bertran, Catherine Combs, Michael Crane, Jennifer Kim, Jeanine Serralles and Ryan Spahn, playing multiple roles.
Scenic design by Takeshi Kata; Costume design by Ilona Somogyi; Lighting design by Matt Frey; and Sound design by Matt Tierney.
The Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street), www.vineyardtheatre.org, through July 3. Running time: 2 hours, including intermission.