BWW Reviews: STATE OF CONTROL Leaves Audience Laughing and Thinking
Stan is not the type of person who goes to prison. With his conservative suits, ties and lifestyle, the tightly wound accountant is content to work his way to the top by doing the right thing in the dark comedy STATE OF CONTROL.
That makes Stan (played by Ben Gorman) the perfect fall guy for a corporation's greed. STATE OF CONTROL, written by Columbus playwright Bill Cook and directed by Matt Hermes, is billed as a comedy but it's much more challenging than a run-of-the-mill farce. The play, particularly the second act when Stan ends up in jail, is designed to make audiences think as well as laugh.
"I write for middle-class people, and I try to address their worst/nightmare fears," says Cook, an associate professor in the Humanities Department at Columbus State Community College. "In my opinion, the worst fear for any middle-class person is prison. It's even worse than cancer, which, after all, one might recover from and go on as before, whereas prison stays with one the remainder of one's life."
Gorman, who has played everything from Hamlet to Charlie Baker in THE FOREIGNER, is perfectly cast as an overwhelmed, wide-eyed accountant. Stan ends up getting a dream job at a top accounting firm where he is pressured by his boss (Mark Schuliger) and a seductive co-worker (Amy Anderson) into a world of martinis, Texas Hold 'Em and expense accounts. Seduced by the fast-paced lifestyle of the firm, Stan morphs from a mild-mannered accountant into a big shot controller. He is coerced into signing documents without reading them (something a good accountant would never do). After being assured he will be paid back, he ends up losing most of his personal savings in a poker game while trying to land clients in Las Vegas. Stan doesn't realize he's being set up to take the fall until he is arrested for embezzling funds from the company at the end of the first act.
Cook, who spent six months working in the Franklin County Jail, takes shots the justice system in the second act as Stan trades in his drab business suit for an orange prison jumper. Since he gambled away his savings, Stan is forced to use a public defender, a small ventriloquist dummy he has to operate to address the court. Because he maintains his innocence, Stan receives as a harsh prison sentence. He quickly finds he is equally out of place behind bars as he was in the high-powered investment firm.
Gorman is the only member of the five-person cast who doesn't switch characterS. Anderson provides one of the more interesting changes, shifting from Stan's mousy wife Dorothy, who is convinced her husband is having an affair, and Stan's seductive co-worker, who tries to woo Stan into an affair. Schuliger swings among his roles as Stan's manipulative boss, a prosecuting attorney and sadistic prison guard Taylor flawlessly. Randy Benge brings to life a variety of eccentric characters including Stan's overbearing father-in-law, a high court judge aroused by any Latin phrase, and a prison warden who is more concerned with saving souls than a prisoner's rehabilitation. Charles Farrow plays minor roles in the first half such as a waiter, a casino concierge, and a detective in the first act but comes to the forefront in the second as Stan's cellmate who explains to him the ways of prison life.
STATE OF CONTROL not only gives audiences something to laugh about during its two hour performance but something to think about on the way home.
STATE OF CONTROL will be performed Sept. 27- 29 and Oct. 3-4 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center's Van Fleet Theater (549 Franklin Avenue). Tickets are $25 in advance through www.brownpapertickets.com or "Pay What You Want" in cash at the door. For more information, call 614.441.2929. Visit www.ab-theatrical.com for more details.