An ARC Production in Association with Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre
Magnificent. A must see
For actor Andre Sills’ directorial debut, he searched for a play that would inspire him, would challenge him, and would drive him as if he was in the production himself. He wanted to get back to telling the truth in stories, and not harbour any fear in showing the world as it really and truly is to others.
He certainly made an extremely wise choice in the selection of Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ satirical ‘Gloria’ to achieve his goal. In a conversation I held with the engaging actor a few weeks ago, Sills commented that it is the writing, the echoes, the wit, and the questions that drew him to the play.
For me, ‘Gloria’ became all this and even more. It was an ‘edge of my seat’ remarkably exciting ensemble ‘dark comedy’ of office politics and behaviour performed by exceptional actors who kept me riveted for the two hours. I usually bring a book in which to write notes during the performance, but I closed it and put the pen away as I did not want my attention diverted from this extraordinary production where I heard myself gasp at least twice because I wasn’t expecting what occurred in front of me.
We are in a Manhattan magazine office of ‘Culture Now’. At least that’s what I was led to believe as there are posters and artwork on the walls of the playing space with this title. We are then introduced to the denizens of this office who, by all accounts superficially, are far from professional at least from my understanding of working thirty-three years in the field of Catholic education. These office workers in ‘Gloria’ are very unhappy people who dream of something else for themselves, and whether they are successful becomes part of the unfolding plot.
The previous night before there was a party held at the home of the office weirdo Gloria (Deborah Drakeford) who appears sporadically throughout the first act and is acting rather strangely in front of everyone before she disappears. Ms. Drakeford also plays office manager Nan. Most in the office either forgot or did not attend the party except Dean (Nabil Traboulsi), Nan’s assistant, who stumbles in hungover from the night before at Gloria’s place.
We are also introduced to the office intern, Miles (Savion Roach) who is finishing his last day. During his internship as part of his degree program, Miles has become the ‘Joe job gopher’ for everyone else. The selfish and ungrateful worker who spends more time away from her desk Kendra (Athena Kaitlin Trinh) at times becomes that one person in the office whom everyone despises and wonders why she hasn’t been turfed out.
From her vantage point, receptionist Ani (Jonelle Gunderson) has the perfect vantage view of everything. Just slightly down the hall we also meet the harried fact check checker for the magazine Lorin (Carlos González-Vio) who comes rushing on when the noise level gets extremely loud, and he can’t concentrate because he is checking the facts for all the articles.
Jackie Chau’s open set design sharply incorporated various angles, three walls and designs to open the playing space. The single desks nicely worked as cubicles. The overhanging fluorescent tubing lights which hum, fade, and burn out periodically become a select example of pathetic fallacy. (Hopefully you’ll remember your high school English lesson terminology).
Christopher Stanton’s sound design and composition remain clearly sharp especially his composition of ‘Glitter Witch’. Jonelle Sills’ solo soprano vocals near the end of the production hauntingly remained with me as I exited the auditorium. Chris Malkowski’s lighting design cleanly highlights the action of the stage. At one moment, I was so taken with the shadowed lighting on Savion Roach as he cleans both the windows and the countertop all in stylized slow motion while never upstaging the conversation between Drakeford and Gunderson.
Sills’ vision for the play as director becomes sharply delineated. He holds a mirror up to all of us in the audience and wants to see how humans really do behave and makes us question why we behave in the manner we do, sometimes wittingly, sometimes humorously, and sometimes ghastly.
This highly acclaimed ensemble of actors reached the bar Sills set high for this production and told the story unabashedly without any fear whatsoever. To experience its truth, its pathos, its wit, its bravado, its bravery, and its clarity in enlightenment, I strongly encourage you to see this ‘Gloria’ and experience it firsthand yourselves personally.
Final Comments: ‘Enthralling and gripping, this ‘Gloria’ with its passionate and provoking storyline is one that needs to be discussed after the curtain comes down. Magnificent.”
Running time: approximately 2 hours with one intermission
Production runs to March 20 in the Guloien Theatre, at Crows, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets call the Box Office (647) 341-7398 or visit www.crowstheatre.com.
Performers: Deborah Drakeford, Carolos González-Vio, Jonelle Gunderson, Savion Roach, Nabil Traboulsi, Athena Kaitlin Trinh
GLORIA by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
An Arc Production in Association with Crow’s Theatre
Director: Andre Sills
Assistant Director and Stage Manager: Tamara Vuckovic
Producer: Paolo Santalucia
Associate Producer: Rob Kempson
Production Manager & Technical Director: Holly Hilts
Set and Costume Designer: Jackie Chau
Lighting Designer: Chris Malkowski
Sound Designer and Composer: Christopher Stanton
Fight Director: Daniel Levinson