Wannabe Mamet script does not satisfy
|The Agency Theater Collective presents|
|Truth in Context|
Review by Lauren Whalen
The corporate world can be a tough nut to crack, especially when one is 23 years old, fresh out of a liberal arts undergraduate program, and has a resume limited to pushing carts at Target. In Truth and Context, writer-director Cody Lucas strives to emulate Glengarry Glen Ross with a hard-as-nails higher-up having some sadistic fun with a hapless wannabe employee. Sadly, even two very strong actors can’t salvage this paltry attempt at snappy satire with a hint of emotion. The story is not only cliché, but tired – and one questions why it needed to be told again in the first place.
Set entirely in the office of an advertising agency in an unnamed city, Truth in Context revolves around the relationship between hotshot executive William (Matthew Collins) and his protégé, Bobby (Awate Serequeberhan). Bobby, the aforementioned graduate, is average in every way: a recent transplant from Kansas, he pulled mediocre grades in school and doesn’t appear to have much of a personality. During the interview, William enjoys grilling the hapless young man he clearly has no intention of hiring. A few days later, however, the tables have turned and the student quickly becomes the teacher – but in this game of truth and context, who will win?
Unfortunately, there is nothing new or interesting about Lucas’ script. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect: mind games, shouting, and a healthy dose of profanity that only reveals the sad, empty state of both characters. The playwright doesn’t make much of an effort to elevate William or Bobby from the stereotypes of jerk-with-a-secret boss and manipulative-yet-unsure employee. The clichés are exacerbated with long transitions, featuring original music by Ryan Brankin, that only prolong a dragging 90 minutes that fail to engender any kind of sympathy for either character. Finally, rather than trusting his audience’s intelligence, Lucas has his characters use the words “truth,” “context” and “advertising” ad nauseum.
Ellie Humphrys has designed some nice mood lighting, and Greg Pinsoneault’s set makes the most out of the small Alley Stage space. Both actors boast impressive bios and prove themselves extremely capable, even with such a mediocre script. Collins revels in William’s loud entitlement in the early scenes, and – despite Lucas’ shoddy sense of character development – makes a believable journey from outspoken jerk to quivering mess of a human. And Serequeberhan, a recent graduate of the rigorous Theatre School at DePaul University, shows remarkable ability and intelligence. His Bobby is equal parts endearing and frustrating, embodying the confusing stage between child and adult. The actors play well together, circling one another like wolves as they explore the play’s constantly changing power dynamic.
If Truth and Context had been even a little bit different from the standard workplace drama, it could be enjoyable. The potential exists, as does the talent. Unfortunately, Lucas doesn’t take chances, and relies on the all-too-familiar, resulting in an hour and a half that’s largely disappointing.
Truth in Context continues through August 23rd at Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway (map), with performances Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm. Tickets are $15, and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at WeAreTheAgency.org. (Running time: 90 minutes without intermission)
Photos by Emily Sperl
behind the scenes
Cody Lucas (director, playwright), Sara Faye Richmond (stage manager), Chad Hain (technical director), Sam Moryoussef (assistant technical director), Kate Jacobsen (costume design), Ellie Humphrys (lighting design), Greg Pinsoneault (scenic design), Ryan Brankin (original music), Emily Sperl (photos)