Let’s talk about racism. No, let’s really talk about it. Let’s look at racism in America through the eyes of the corporate boss, the elitist, the slightly self-righteous and the masses apathetically do nothing to promote love and healing.
Tall order for a playwright: to sculpt sympathetic characters who hold a mosaic of qualities, emotions and experiences which eventually lend themselves to either attributing to or fighting against racism. Playwright Marcy Lovitch fills this order superbly. In her play, Office Politics, presented by Long View Theater Company, she dissects all those attitudes and choices people encounter when interacting with people of other ethnicities.
Lovitch, having a background in journalism herself, takes the audience into the world of glossy magazine publishing. At Women's Health magazine, the characters navigate around typical office politics, including extramarital affairs, co-worker friendships, the glass ceiling, boss-employee relations and, most deeply, racism. Tonya (played divinely, elegantly and poignantly by Patrice Bell) is a young, sharp, African-American woman, among a staff of Caucasians, who has taken a job as an assistant at the magazine. With her strong work ethic, she chooses to ignore being bullied by one of the seniors in her department, Bruce (played with painstaking honesty and simmering intensity by Carson Lee). Until, that is, Bruce makes one nasty comment that can't be excused away. Tonya stands up for herself, thus holding a magnifying glass up to each of her co-workers.
Josh Doucette as the sweet, sensitive Len gives a strong contrast to Tonya's tougher edges. Philip Guerette as the ever-so-sloppy hipster Greg brings perfectly timed humor and warmth to the stage. Molly Lovell (as Ingrid) brings to life the complexities of a career-minded, beautiful woman married to a less ambitious man. Maria Wolf as the boss (Karen) captures the intelligence and the heart of a woman succeeding in a man's world. Nicholas De Sibio as a precious camp counselor (and his damn loud bell!) made the whole house burst into laughter, making the second act greatly fun. The direction of Aimee Todoroff is so precise, she achieves a perfect balance of humor and emotional gravity. I did not watch actors acting at Office Politics. I watched people living.
The script needs a tad more scrutiny. It feels as though there were once more complex plot twists, which are now only hinted at. Among other things these dangling story threads cause certain relationships to progress too quickly and not before our eyes. Nothing that a few 'scenelets' added to the first act can’t solve, similar to those near the end of the second act.
Big cheers to set designer Sandy Yalkin for good energy flow and fun play with levels in her space-efficient set. Congratulations to costume designer Deanna R. Frieman for overall sensibility and a hilarious way with t-shirts. All in all, Office Politics is a gem of American theatre. This play is exactly what America needs: a magnifying glass held up to its wounds.