KPFA theatre critic Richard Wolinsky reviews “Gloria” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at ACT’s Strand theatre through April 12, 2020.
Text of review (minus actuality)
Sitting in a cubicle in an office, no matter how great the job or its prospects, can be a debilitating experience. At last that’s the way playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins saw his brief time working at the fabled New Yorker magazine several years ago.
It’s also true that TV shows like The Office, in particular, or, of course, several dozen other sitcoms over the years, have covered cubicle life more fully than any two hour play ever could, which is why Jacobs-Jenkins goes so much deeper in the funny and shocking “Gloria,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2014, now a production at ACT’s Strand Theatre through April 12th.
Eric Ting, director of the production
Gloria is one of those plays takes a sudden turn at the end of Act One, an event for which there seems to be no foreshadowing, so it’s a little hard to talk about themes except in the most general sense.
But one thing is very clear from Act One, that Branden-Jacobs Jenkins is a very funny writer. It’s non-stop laughter as the four characters in adjoining cubicles complain and babble about their lives, their future their disappointments, and of course, the stultifying role of management in their lives. It’s hard to single out any of the six member cast, though special kudos go to the fast talking Melanie Arii Mah as the non-stop office gossip. Lauren English is so different in her two roles that you have to pinch yourself to remember it’s the same actress. These folks are all really, really good.
As with many plays in which the funny dialogue in Act One gives way to a more serious aftermath in Act II, some audiences might feel let down. But that’s part of the plan, because Gloria examines how the contour of our lives are often shaped by sudden events out of our control, and that a play may end, but our own lives continue to go on.
Gloria, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Eric Ting, plays at ACT’s Strand Theatre through April 12th. For more information you can go to act-sf.org. I’m Richard Wolinsky on Bay Area theatre for KPFA.