By Nicole Singley
On the Burbank Studio Theatre stage through March 12th, Santa Rosa Junior College kicks off their spring season with a show that is equal parts funny, heartbreaking, and horrific. A 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, Gloria is both a scathing satire of cutthroat corporate culture and a chilling meditation on the human cost of the all-American rat race. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins holds a magnifying glass to contemporary capitalism and unfeeling ambition with an incisive script both worrying and witty.
Set in the pre-Covid corporate offices of a major big-city magazine, Gloria is, at face value, a comic exploration of toxic workplace dynamics. But something darker lurks beneath the surface. It opens with office gossip about a coworker’s poorly-attended housewarming party, while wads of cash are repeatedly shoved at the office intern to facilitate arbitrary trips to the vending machine. But when another ordinary day at the office turns out to be anything but, who will get the story, and will they tell it responsibly?
Nate Musser delivers a stand-out performance as jaded fact-checker Lorin, argyle sweater-clad and stuck in a dead-end role, on the verge of an early mid-life crisis. Earning big laughs in Act 1 and evoking great compassion in Act 2, Musser brings humor and pathos to the role, acting as empathetic ballast against the self-serving, soulless attitudes of others in the office. He is excellent and impeccably cast.
Juliya Lubin is impressively versatile in diametrically opposed roles, acting first as the play’s title character, Gloria, a shy and socially awkward office worker, and later as Nan, a high-powered executive who struggles to remember the names and faces of her subordinates. Both are difficult roles and central to the show’s core conflicts, and Lubin moves between them convincingly and with ease.
McDieun Philidor, Trevor Braskamp, and Lizzy Bies are also strong in multiple roles. Philidor and Braskamp play particularly well together in Act 1 as budding office intern (Philidor) and former intern/aspiring writer turned languishing editorial assistant (Braskamp), highlighting the tension that often exists between colleagues balancing on different rungs of the corporate ladder and climbing (or not climbing) at very different speeds.
…the cast and crew at SRJC are serving up a worthwhile production…
Nina Nguyen is tasked with some of the play’s longer monologues and much of the comic relief. Given this, it’s unfortunate that on opening night Nguyen struggled with delivery and pacing, resulting in speech that felt stilted and contrived. Emotional reactions to the other characters felt forced and unnatural, too, though opening-night nerves may have contributed. Despite these miscues, Nguyen brings great energy to a demanding role and sustains that energy throughout. She’s enjoyable to watch in the process.
Lighting (Chris Cota) and sound (Alex Clark) are aptly designed and mostly spot-on, though some of the sound effects could perhaps be louder. This may have been a deliberate decision on Clark’s or director Leslie McCauley’s part, for reasons I can’t divulge without giving too much away. An opening night snag led to a lengthier scene change in Act 2, but transitions were otherwise well executed. A simple but skillfully constructed set and complementary props create an atmosphere that really feels like an office, and transforms easily into a coffee shop and back again.
Gloria contemplates the cost of living in a culture that asks only how we can capitalize on our tragedies instead of learn from them and ultimately, prevent them. It’s challenging and timely material that offers much food for thought, and despite a few rough edges on opening night, the cast and crew at SRJC are serving up a worthwhile production. This reviewer recommends it, though younger audiences and those in search of lighter fare are cautioned to steer clear of this one.
Nicole Singley is a Senior Contributing Writer and Editor at Aisle Seat Review and a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, Sonoma County’s Marquee Theater Journalists Association, and the American Theatre Critics Association.
|Written by ||Branden Jacobs-Jenkins|
|Directed by||Leslie McCauley|
|Producing Company||SRJC Theatre Arts|
|Production Dates||Thru Mar 12th, 2023|
|Production Address||Burbank Studio Theatre
SRJC Santa Rosa Campus
1501 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||----|