Recommended *** There are times, after reading the description of a play in the press release, that I anticipate the production. In most cases, the thought process that I have during anticipation works out to perfection. There are other times, that what I expect is not as complete as what I had anticipated. There are also times when a play is more mysterious and being the type of person I am (not wanting to give away any specific info that could harm your viewing the production)I find myself not feeling that the production has lived up to the hype or my anticipation.
The Goodman Theatre’s current production, “Gloria” written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is a thriller, to say the least. Might I also add that the first act ends more explosively than one might have expected and that as one looking forward to all the puzzle pieces fitting together in the second act, I found myself asking “is that all?”. This play, a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer, takes place in New York, at the offices of a magazine publisher. Smoothly directed by Evan Cabinet, who has his entire original company from New York in Chicago, the characters are all involved with their “careers”, attaining higher status than their co-workers and of course, being popular amongst their peers and bosses.
Each of these workers ( or as it seems, non-workers, on the payroll) are seeking an opportunity to one-up their peers and possibly take the step up the ladder of success where they will get a headline in the upscale magazine they work for. As it turns out, what seems like another “day at the office” for these young (and younger) staffers who are waiting for the correct break to change their lives, but on this day, something unique and different in the way of a special event occurs, which as it turns out changes each of their lives forever.
There are two basic sets (Takeshi Kasta) depicting a typical office with glass walls/offices along the outer walls and cubicles in the center of the work area. This is where the majority of the action takes place in the first act. The second set is what could easily be a Starbucks shop and in the second scene, we go back to the office setting, but just a bit different from the original one we viewed and shared. There was a bit of a sound problem early in the play, which seemed to get better with the exception of one actor, but kudos to Ryan Spahn, who managed to project to the back row (an instruction actors have been given for decades-he did it!). The costumes (Ilona Somogyi) and lighting (Matt Frey) and the fight choreography (J. David Brimmer) are all important, but somehow, no mention of the props person in the notes or program. Shame! Whoever did the props, did a bang-up job!
What makes this play work is the cast of players under the direction of Cabnet. In addition to Spahn who was terrific, Kyle Beltran, Catherine Combs, Michael Crane, Jennifer Kim (an exciting actress as Kendra) and Janine Serralles as Gloria. Some take on secondary roles in the second act, but what we see in this play is how every individual, in almost any opportunistic situation, might change who they are and what they are for their chance to obtain “their 15 minutes” AKA “fame”. We watch these young people, filled with sheer ambition, do whatever they can to be seen by their employers as valuable assets. After the major event in the first act, each of the “writers” looks for the opportunity to tell their story. But which account is valid? Which is real? Again, not wanting to give away any of the powerful surprises Jacobs-Jensen has put into his story of blind ambition and how it can affect one’s moral code of conduct. I can tell you that the play is realistic and powerful!
“Gloria” will continue at The Goodman Theatre’s Albert, in a co-production with The Vineyard Theater Company, located at 170 N. Dearborn Street through February 19th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 2 and 7:30 p.m. (no afternoon on 2/16)
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m. No matinee on 1/28
(photos Liz Lauren) Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m. (no evening on 2/12 and 2/19)
Tickets range from $20-$85 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Gloria
visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Access for special dates and events on accessibility
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Gloria”