BWW Review: A Riveting MAY QUEEN Arrives at the Cape Playhouse
When you accept that temporary office position, can't you imagine your world will soon be full of new exciting possibilities? Well, perhaps we should go that far with the workplace excitement, but there is a certain glamour to the idea of working amongst educated people who have aspirations and want nothing more than to advance their careers while sitting in a metaphoric cubicle that becomes known as "life," right?
With a title like The May Queen, who wouldn't think of a show taking place in the confines of an office, a workplace full of slowly deteriorating workers who are graced with the slightly odd presence of a former high school celebrity who brings with her life's baggage?
Premiering at the Cape Playhouse, The May Queen, written by Molly Smith Metzler and now directed by Amanda Charlton, comes to the stage and brings with it the sort of office lethargy that almost comes too close to the real thing. If you've ever worked in an office setting before, the moment David walks tiredly into the room you are already nodding your head in acknowledgement of the silent aggravation and gradual hopelessness the situation brings forth.
The set and the atmosphere it brings forth is the first thing the audience acknowledges, and if that doesn't set the perfect somber tone that needs a little shaking up, a little disruption, then would fun would the rest of the plot be? There is such a desperate need for change the moment the jingle is played from the office space (calling forth these people like dogs in time for their supper - very Bekettian indeed), that credit must be given to the creative team first for setting this up so perfectly before anyone steps foot on that stage.
From there, it only gets worse. In a mockery of what office life is (meaning a true representation of it), Gail and David are joined by Jennifer, a temp worker whom they soon recognize as the "May Queen," a nominated honor which is meant to make high school high on the list of one's glory days. Yet, by the looks of this woman, she doesn't seem to have gone very far with her life thereafter...that is, until the workplace meets personal life with a clash. Who says that things don't happen for a reason, right? When it is revealed that Jennifer and Mike know each other from way back when, stories begin to circulate that no one in that office can truly make sense of; why is Jennifer here temping when she was just working with a big firm, living the life only a few short weeks ago? How does the May Queen know Mike, and why is she so hesitant to even see his face again? And the question on everyone's mind: how was this woman ever so popular?
The ironic part of this entire show is how the people who work for this depressing boutique insurance company in Kingston, NY, no matter their age, have never left behind their high school mentality; it is as though a reunion is occurring in the midst of an office that gives people little reason to move in any way forward. David is still in school, pursuing a degree in Psychology (the irony of that) so that he can move out of his parents' house, while Gail's two children are already too far-gone down the beaten path to become civilized human beings. Nicole, the "cabbage patch" boss whom all resent, is perpetually referred to as some sort of child and Mike resembles a sort of football star who never lost his swag or gave up the glory of those memorable days.
All in all, I'd say the workplace is the perfect place to resurrect those high school days when, contrary to what you might think, all was hardly ever close to being okay.
There is a lot about The May Queen that is equally as exciting as it is suspenseful, with bouts of humor thrown in there without there seeming a conscious effort to do so on the actors' behalves. For example, Gail has an eccentric personality (not to mention a very colorful wardrobe which works well with her character) while Dave is rather flat and hardly enthused, not motivated by anything in that office except his schoolwork and the Keurig machine. Mike comes onto the scene drunk, suspended from work and not even supposed to be there but gallivanting around with complete disregard for authority.
The setting is comparable to a circus, and the audience almost forgets that these people are performing, the absurdity of their personalities and the matter of it all coming together in so perfect a congealed mess; watching everyone cannot be anything but entertaining. There are jokes interspersed throughout, some of which can pass as character quirks while some are meant to hit home with the sarcasm embedded in each. Nicole is like a deflated breath of fresh air to the way things are going in this office, while Nicole is pure evil...that is, until the audience comes to understand that the people who you would least expect to have the pasts they have bring about a humorous yet heartfelt revelation that no one is quite sure of (and who is being truthful or just plain crazy) until everything is sorted out towards the end.
The May Queen is one crazy and exciting turn after the next, somewhat unexpected for a so called "office comedy." Yet, that is the irony of the whole situation, and also what these employees need for their lives to change for the better. Only towards the end does everyone "graduate" (per se) and move on with their lives, receiving what they have deserved for years of dedication to the same company, entering the same humdrum office until there is actually enthusiasm to see the comical tiki-bar setup Gail had set up so long ago. The time during which this show takes place is even described in the program as one that is "sad and when your taxes are due," so use your imagination - you know that you're in for something fun here.
The show provides non-stop action, never allowing the audience to remain stagnant with one thought, as there is always a new joke to be had, a new revelation made or just something that is a constant attention-grabber while further advancing the story's plot; there is truly never a dull moment here. The is incredibly dramatic, comically suspenseful, sassy and overall one that I believe everyone will absolutely enjoy the absurd reality of...even if you must return to your own office the following day.
Julian Leong as David Lund, Peter O'Connor as Mike Petracca, Keira Naughton as Gail Gillespie, Natasha Warner as Nicole Chen and Ariel Woodiwiss as Jennifer Nash complete this wonderfully talented cast of office workers who make this show so damn entertaining. Timothy Mackabee as Scenic Designer, Jake DeGroot as Lighting Designer, Bart Fastbender as Sound Designer and Amy Clark as Costume Designer help bring this awesome production to life.
The May Queen at the Cape Playhouse (located at 820 Main Street right in the heart of Dennis Village) began performances on July 26th and will continue thru August 6th. Tickets range from $19-$79 and may be purchased in person at the box office, by calling (508) 385.3911 Monday thru Friday (12-6) or by visiting capeplayhouse.com. The performance schedule is as follows: Monday thru Wednesday at 7:30, Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00, with 2:00 matinees on Wednesday and Thursday. Ample parking is available on site.
Enjoy the show!
Photo credit: Mimi de Quesada