By Tulis McCall
In the press release we are told that Jane (Sydney Lemmon) works for a big tech company. In parenthesis it says “You know the one” – but honestly, do we? Google is owned by Alphabet, who also owns FitBit and Waze. Facebook is now Meta and owns Instagram and What’s App. Even as we speak there are start-ups starting up. We are tracked everywhere we go. ”
And still there are those rebels out there who pretend they are outside the reach of tech. They are not, and it is the job of Jane to track these people and remove their presence from the Internet. This is of course an impossible task because as Jane says, “The internet isn’t some fringe “young people” thing anymore – it’s where we live.” Exposure to the underbelly of the Internet causes Jane to have a breakdown and it is the job of Loyd (Peter Friedman) to grant her re-entry into the Hell of her employment. At least Hell would give her a location.
There is not a nano-second where we are at ease as onlookers. Perhaps that has something to do with the gun Jane is pointing at Loyd when the lights come up. Initially this becomes a scene of very dark humor indeed. But the humor is not trustworthy. The gun goes back in the bag, but we never forget the bag is there.
Max Wolf Friedlich pulls us into a slow moving whirlpool that pulls us down until we cannot escape. Jane and Loyd lock themselves together in that therapy chamber. Loyd asks to be let out but makes no real attempt to move. Jane asks for permission to get back to her job but continues to make the hole she is in deeper with every sentence. They are suspended. And so are we.
There are times when this script feels lumpy, distracted and wandering, (and the jarring slashes of light and sound are confusing in the extreme). The last few moments of the play deflate the trajectory and need adjusting. The extraordinary performances, however, continually pull the wagon back onto the trail. This is a pas de deux in the truest sense. While the speechifying weighs heavily in Ms. Lemmon’s direction, it is Friedman’s listening that balances those many moments. Without his listening, Lemmon’s rants would be little more than just that – rants. Friedman’s listening gives Lemmon a purpose and provides the only air in this chamber. It is his listening that makes it possible for the rest of us to breathe.
Meanwhile, Jane is leading us along a very narrow and very dark pathway. Not out of any malicious intent but because it is the path she must walk. Friedlich has done his research and turns the tables on both characters more than once. There are switchbacks that would ravel a cutthroat tennis match with the players using jet propelled equipment.
This play is not a walk in the park. It is a running of the gauntlet. Both these characters are playing a high stakes game, and because of the combination of writing, direction and performances we are allowed access to the very heart of the matter.
The invitation is not without consequence, but no matter how far we plummet, there is the promise that we will land safely. Having been allowed to see and experience hurt, vulnerability and fear, we are returned to ourselves carrying the gift of a new perspective.
And that, my friends, is what makes theatre magic.
JOB by Max Wolf Friedlich, directed by Michael Horwitz
WITH Peter Friedman and Sydney Lemmon
Scenic design by Scott Penner, costume design by Michelle Li, lighting design by Mextly Couzin, and sound design by Jessie Char and Maxwell Neely-Cohen.
NOTE ABOUT TICKETS – This show is sold out, but new performances have been scheduled and rush tickets made available.