BWW Reviews: Iron Crow's THE TYPOGRAPHER'S DREAM Sweetly Examines Modern Reality
A typographer, a geographer and a stenographer sit down at a bar.
There's no punch line to be found in Iron Crow Theatre Co.'s production of Adam Bock's The Typographer's Dream, but rather an unveiling of personalities and of how so often what we do is inseparable from who we are.
The structural evolution of this 75-minute piece is so interesting: It begins as a series of overlapping, overflowing monologues as the three characters-the typographer, the geographer and the stenographer, in that order-introduce themselves by their occupations ("I'm a typographer," not "I'm Margaret," because we later learn that the characters do indeed have names). It's not until we've made our way through quite a bit of the performance that the characters actually start interacting, when the typographer (Sarah Ford Gorman), who's been having the most trouble defining who she is, addresses the others by asserting, "Don't interrupt me."
This leaves the geographer (Jenny Male), effervescent and exceedingly enthusiastic about such things as political boundaries and choke points, a bit taken aback and the stenographer (Steven J. Satta-Fleming), who is entirely preoccupied with convincing the audience and himself that court reporting is not only hugely important but also rather glamorous, quietly sympathetic. As the geographer becomes more emphatic about the fascination of her field, the stenographer becomes more pedantic about the intricacies and difficulties of court reporting and the highly sensitive typographer becomes more despondent about how her art has degenerated into "a goddam business."
The script is brilliantly crafted to allow the monologues to relate to each other thematically without being redundant. When the typographer offers a soft-spoken, nearly poetic perspective on the stories that typographers tell and on the decisions they make to color those stories ("If the typographer has done her job, this opinion will look like the truth," she says), the stenographer follows with a discussion of how, as the court reporter, he connects to the stories that people tell. "And you become your job, and your job becomes you," he says.
All the while, they're speaking directly to the audience, and to emphasize this lack of a fourth wall, the house lights remain up. When the lighting changes dramatically for the first time, it's to indicate a flashback-and only then do we realize that these three people have longstanding relationships. And in the depiction of their friendship, the characters begin to reveal their flaws. The stenographer is a liar; the geographer is critical and defensive; and the typographer wants to escape reality-each reflecting the problems that plague their fields.
The cast's acting is fluid, seemingly effortless, impressively even and a joy to watch: believably, sincerely emotional without being melodramatic; delightfully funny at times; perfectly evoking the qualities of those occupations that define them. Particularly impressive is Male's ability to slip Canadian affects into her speech, adding the eh's and pinched O's that are the hallmarks of our northern neighbors' accents. Satta-Fleming's pride in the seriousness and responsibility of his profession is palpable. And Gorman's quiet artistic sensitivity is so endearing that her outbursts and anger in later scenes are shocking.
A beautiful, stripped-down foray into quasi-existentialism, The Typographer's Dream allows the audience simultaneously to escape and to examine their own dreams and realities. "The typographer's dream … ," the typographer says, "is to have time stop."
The Typographer's Dream runs Thursday-Sunday through June 16 at The Johns Hopkins University's Swirnow Theater, Charles and 33rd streets in Baltimore. Iron Crow Theatre Co.'s next production, Bad Panda, opens Oct. 13, 2012, and is the first of its 2012-13 season. For more information, visit www.ironcrowtheatre.com.
Photos © Katie Ellen Simmons-Barth, courtesy of Iron Crow Theatre Co.