Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Review Is In!

Nothing is as it seems in this office

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 11:04 pm
By BILL CISSNA Special Correspondent

In the world of Adam Bock’s play “The Receptionist,” everything in the Northeast Office seems normal, business-like, maybe even mundane. Or at least it does for a while.

Spirit Gum Theatre Company opened its production of the play Friday night at The Actor’s Group on Reynolda Road. In the compact space (it seats 30 patrons), a cast of four held the audience spellbound for 80 minutes.

At first, attention is drawn with recognizable characters and humor focused primarily on the receptionist (Cheryl Ann Roberts) and her co-worker Lorraine (Britt Cannino). The later action, which enters into a different universe, more directly involves the office’s boss Mr. Raymond (Gregg Vogelsmeier) and the Central Office’s representative Mr. Dart (Latimer Alexander V).

The hyper-organized Beverly rules over her front desk roost with opinions for the romantically-challenged, narcissist-inflicted Lorraine. Part guidance counselor, part mother, Beverly rolls out advice despite her own marriage and child-raising issues.

Beverly, at the center of this story in more ways than one, is the kind of woman who collects expensive tea cups with her husband, but reacts with “ewww” at the thought of collecting coffee mugs.

Into the midst of the phone ringing and phone call avoidance strolls the initially-pleasant Mr. Dart, who wants to see Mr. Raymond whenever he returns. He plays friendly with Beverly but, when Beverly goes out for a bit, his approach to Lorraine sheds a darker light.

At last, Mr. Raymond does return, and something of the true nature of both the Northeast and the Central offices begins to surface.

We’re given a clue when Beverly talks about her transition two years earlier to her current location. For some unknown reason, she was the only one to be transferred from the office in which she earlier worked.

Spirit Gum is a small company that has gained a well-deserved reputation of doing more with less. In the limited space, the basic set represents a standard type of office that disguises a very special kind of business. First-time director Sarah Jenkin has done a fine job of casting and lent her actor’s knowledge to making the cast’s solo moments and interactions believable even as things change drastically.

Vogelsmeier, Cannino and Alexander all bring strong support, especially as they transition from people with the normal concerns of office workers to fear or ominous threat.

As the heart and soul of the office, however, Cheryl Ann Roberts — a stage veteran of many a show in and around the Triad — presents a very natural, warm, concerned individual who nevertheless has a great “cold eye” to share with Dart. Her transition from relatively innocent front desk person to finding herself in shocking and uncertain circumstances is a joy to behold.

If you decide to catch this shape-shifting play, reservations are recommended. Seating is definitely limited — but the price is right to see a fine cast in an intriguing show.

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