Andrew Loman - Short Plays St. John's 2016 - "Work in Progress"

September 24, 2016 - MUN Reviews

"The other play on the program, Work in Progress, is new, written and directed by the formidably talented Jana Gillis. Her production is blessed with a great cast, with a standout performance from the hilarious Andrew Tremblett. The play begins beautifully, with a surreal job interview that parodies the absurd rituals of office culture. The scene wouldn’t be out of place in Ionesco or Dilbert, and it launches a rapid-fire series of comic vignettes between Tremblett and Emily Corcoran (also excellent). A man, always named Chad, meets a woman, always named Stacy. But in one instance they’re office workers, in another they’re partying on a dance floor, in a third they’re in the army, with Chad as the sergeant and Stacy as the new recruit. The actors get to showcase their comic timing and their ability to leap from one character type to another. After these vignettes, action in a more conventional, realist register begins. An academic (David Feehan) obsessed with his work enters, mulling over his notes on the mysteries of human relationships. A prospective research assistant intrudes (Catherine Vielguth), and she takes advantage of his extreme social awkwardness to talk her way into the job. Periodically the scenes between the academic and his assistant share the stage with further absurd vignettes involving Chad and Stacy. For a while there are two contrasting theatrical registers at work, the realistic and the surreal, and it’s exhilarating trying to figure out the puzzle of the play. Gradually the two registers converge.


But when they do, the play loses its way and its momentum. The academic is too much in his head; the research assistant offers him the possibility of love; it’s clear from the moment the play articulates its conflicts that it can only end one way. The play becomes conventionally anti-intellectual. Do you think? Then how can you feel? The either-or-ness of these head-versus-heart dramas needs a strong dose of both-and, or a good kick, or both.


Still, the play’s own title offers the reminder that this is a work site. The first half of the play is as sharp and funny as anything I’ve seen this year, and of the new scripts in St. John’s Shorts, it’s the one that takes best advantage of theatre’s possibilities. I’m looking forward to seeing Gillis’ future work: she’s the real thing."




***Full review and others can be found here.