Written by playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins “Gloria” debuted at the Vanguard Theatre, Off-Broadway, in May of 2015. By 2016 it became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a Drama. Now “Gloria” has arrived for its West Coast Premiere at the Echo Theatre Company – 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.
The setting is the cramped office space inside a major publishing house in New York City. On a typical work day three regular employees and an intern exchange a steady and biting flow of barbs and comments about their condition. They are all frustrated by their jobs because as well-educated aspiring writers they want more, much more, than they got. One of them, Dean arrives to work severely hung over, an all too common condition. Today the cause of Dean’s condition was his attendance at the house warming party for Gloria another, but senior, employee at their firm. It seems that Gloria is a little unique and not particularly well liked so as it turned out Dean was the only person from their firm to attend Gloria’s party. Ani seems to be the most stable of the group whereas Kendra has developed the habit of leaving early to make up for arriving late. And the intern Miles, well, he just enjoys listening to his favorite music on his headset so as to not be bothered by the constant scathing conversation between the others.
As the day goes on the stresses and disappointments not uncommon in modern office environments builds so much so that their raised voices stimulate other nearby workers to complain thus adding even more to the stress. Gloria drops in and projects an image of someone deeply dissatisfied. Her behavior is at best bizarre and a little frightening, but she quickly departs. At one point the apparent manager of the department, not seen but off set, a female, summons the intern Miles into her office. For a time the sounds coming from the office suggest that Dean is having a very good time.
When you consider the totality of what is being portrayed it is extremely funny in many ways, probably reasonably accurate in its depiction of an office environment with frustrated and disillusioned workers. There is a steadily building element of darkness that crescendos when Gloria arrives back on scene with a pistol and begins shooting. Miles and Ani are shot dead but Dean, Kendra, Nan and Lorin are spared the murderous wrath of Gloria. Why? And how does this brutal shocking experience impact their lives?
Clearly each co-worker has been severely impacted by what they saw unfold before them and they begin to question every aspect of the event. How does one cope with a toxic work environment? What exactly is it that cause some people, people like Gloria for example to “go postal”? The play even explores how in many cases artistic ambition can turn very ugly. But the big take away is clear. If your boss invites you to a party – GO.
So when looking at the totality of the show “Gloria” I saw something that is rich in abundant but often dark humor, while concurrently presenting valid issues facing our modern society and in all likelihood probably not all that rare in past generations as well. If you are the kind of theatre patron who primarily wants to watch great choreography presented with spectacular music and overwhelming happiness “Gloria” is not your show. But if you enjoy having your mind stretched and your thoughts challenged then “Gloria” will deliver for you.
“Gloria” is running now through October 21st, 2018 with showtimes Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4: p.m. You can get ticketing and reservations information and even view a video trailer at this website.
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