BWW Review: It Takes an Office in Solnik's Compelling New Play GRACE IS GOOD

BWW Review: It Takes an Office in Solnik's Compelling New Play GRACE IS GOOD

What does "me too" mean to you? It can mean a variety of different things, even if associated with the recent movement of the same name; what we consider to be true, though, may not always be the case. In light of this movement, one may be included - "me too" - due to victimization, tales of losing one's identity that makes a person feel less than he or she should. It can also signify a moment of strength, a gathering of like minds and experiences which make the individual feel a part of something - to feel loved.

But what if it becomes a matter of choice - I can manipulate, I can choose what I make of what goes on around me? A person need not be a victim of their own story, even if what others dictate to be true, to be "right," makes succumbing so possible a path. The difficulties and agendas of the world are shrunken to conform to the rules of an office, but are in no way minimalized in playwright Claude Slonik's clever (and might I add rather sly) new play, Grace is Good.

Recently concluding its extended run at Theater for the New City, Director Scott David Reeves, Slonik and the Textile Company presented Grace is Good as a play for the #metoo conversation. It is a play which cleverly takes people's preconceptions and molds them into something not quite fact, not quite fiction, to the extent that the truth becomes what each person makes it. Although this show is associated with a movement, it is also something which comes down to basic human nature and survival - this time within the rather intimate confines of an office setting. It is a tour de force of how people manipulate each other, in a place where everyone is "meant" to be civil and understanding to the best possible degree; the irony of this does not go unnoticed. Personal issues become the fuel by which revenge is to be had...but is this revenge on the new girl on staff or against her boss, whose platonic relationship with his office ingénue is twisted into something a little less innocent? And in the end, who, exactly, is telling the truth - who is considered "good"?

Grace is Good begins and ends at a publication about aviation, where three journalists sit at their desks - two of three devoid of any sort of personal touch. Their boss, Warren, is in the middle of an unusually long interview to fill the position of a disgruntled employee; he has been interviewing Grace for the past ninety minutes. When the two emerge from his office, she is immediately offered the position; she is also offered Warren's assistance by accepting daily invitations to lunch to discuss all there is to know about the position. Warren isn't incredibly well-liked in the office, and Grace is apparently not all her resume says she is. BWW Review: It Takes an Office in Solnik's Compelling New Play GRACE IS GOOD

Three coworkers become three adversaries to making both of their lives miserable, filing complaints about what they believe to be an inappropriate office affair. Even though their lunch breaks and growing closeness raise suspicions but hardly prove anything is actually going on, they are deemed "together" because all of the elements of a relationship are there - except, as Warren points out, the fact that they aren't actually sleeping together. So against what many would do, they continue as they are because of a very basic principle people try to dismantle with all their might: one person helping another. Yet, is that all that's really going on?

Grace is Good brings up so many fascinating concerns about how a movement (this time among coworkers) can turn into something where freedom is actually taken away from the person whose reputation is at stake. Although, what Grace reveals at the end provides another twist to the story that makes me very much admire Slonik's writing style. He writes with rising anticipation of what is to come, although the audience suspects very little of what is happening. Instead, he presents the office as consisting of a bunch of characters - some sarcastic, some funny and some quirky, who hide the fact that there are real emotions beneath what is presented to the world. What Slonik does is take these little moments, whether they be comical or serious in nature (say, for instance, when Warren practices his baseball swing mere inches from an employee's head), and introduces each as a gradual but not "quite" there piece of the puzzle; the way he dedicates time to each instance, and the pace in which he does so, make the show almost eerily dramatic.

There is also the fact that Slonik has touched upon a subject that is intriguing for its realness; the audience probably had a few passing thoughts about whether they could ever be faced with such a situation in their own workplace. One cannot help but think where he or she would fall in such a scenario: would you be the new girl, stressed over not only a new job but the seemingly harmless advances of your boss, or perhaps the charismatic but sneakily vengeful Annette who will take action when something isn't "right" ? Who is really to say which character is right and which is not - who is also to say where our loyalties would lie. And of course, there is still the end that makes us think even harder about the entire plot.

I very much enjoyed watching the small but talented cast make this giant debacle come to life. Atticus Cain, Mike Cesarano and Arielle Mandelberg as co-workers as well as Scott David Reeves, Dana Segal and Jillie Simon collectively make this play quite intriguing. I work in Human Resources myself, and I truly hope that I never have to deal with something as equally uncomfortable as how Grace is portrayed on that stage as her relationship with her boss is questioned. There is such a simplicity to their acting, as though any one of them would have done the same were they to be faced with similar circumstances in reality; they were not only believable in their acting, but also a catalyst to thinking outside the box.

Kudos must also be given to Joanne Newman as Stage Manager, Rafael Rosa as Light Board Operator and Anna Stacy for Poster/Program design.

Grace is Good concluded its extended run (from May 31st to July 24th) at Theater for the New City, located at 155 First Avenue in the East Village; it was an Equity-approved production. For more information, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.com.

Photo Credit: Grace is Good

 

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From This Author Kristen Morale

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