BWW Review: GLORIA at Dee And Charles Wyly Theatre
Trauma, in all of its forms and embodiments, can affect all of us in a variety of ways. Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and nominated for the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, which opened on Wednesday December 7th at the Dallas Theater Center, explores that unique response to trauma to each individual, and how our experiences affect us moving forward. Gloria is a play about perspectives and stories and who owns those stories. Who has the right to tell them? This dark, dramatic comedy shocks the audience into introspection about life, mental health, and the way we treat each other as a society.
A full house watched with joy and shock as the cast of this regional premiere created a world so full of reality and truth, and sprinkled it with a large dose of humor: quite often dark humor. It is rare to find a cast of actors where each individual truly carries her weight and positively contributes to the development of the world of the play. This cast accomplished exactly that. The energy was high, there was a lot of yelling, but silence was also taken advantage of. The chemistry between nearly all of the actors on stage (and off) was remarkable. The actors made us laugh, and then feel uncomfortable for laughing. The dynamic between Ani (Grace Montie) and Dean (Drew Wall), 2 of the primary characters, created a well-developed relationship, a quite believable relation of two people who couldn't be more different, yet are forced to work across a desk from each other. Ms. Montie plays Ana, a friendly, fun and goofy co-worker, Sasha, a serious professional carrying some strength, and Callie, a curious and friendly co-worker. Her performances were layered with striking character development, excellent comedic timing, and the ability to encourage empathy. Leah Spillman did an excellent job with the odd Gloria and the ambitious Nan. Satomi Blair maintains excellent diction and holds on to the focus of the audience as she spits out multiple firey, speedy, and lengthy monologues as Kendra, a self-centered fashionista who is also a co-worker in the office. She continues her comedic timing in the role of Jenna. Ryan Woods solidly plays the roles of Shawn, Miles, and Rashaad.
Christie Vela, the director, did an impeccable job with timing in the show. The awkwardly long pauses were sufficiently long and awkward and the manic rantings of a fashionista or a drunk were quite rapid with hardly a moment to take a breath of air. The show had layers, the blocking was purposeful and powerful and the play came so beautifully together that it is obvious Ms. Vela was an excellent choice to direct this play. The scenic design, created by Dahlia Al-Habieli, is realistic yet ominous with office-style florescent bulbs, brightly and invasively shining from the ceiling before the play even begins. The sleek, modern design in the first act contrasts against the chaotic work environment of this Manhattan magazine publisher. The scenic design created a clear and obvious contrast between characters before a single actor set foot on stage. Ani's neat, obsessive desk contrasts with Dean's cluttered desk and waste basket full of vitamin waters. The painfulness of oppressive office lighting became apparent the moment those lights were turned on.
The humor in the play is essential to lighten the darkness, yet it doesn't dispose of it. In some ways, it makes us look deeper as we awkwardly laugh during seemingly inappropriate moments and come to terms with the adversities that life throws at us. Gloria runs through Sunday, January 22. Tickets to Gloria are on sale now at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org and by phone at (214) 880-0202.
Photo Credit: Karen Almond