Certainly an all-too-relatable play, What We’re Up Against, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt and now playing at the WP Theater, relies very heavily on its dialogue. Fast-paced and yet annoyingly overly verbose at times, this well-structured play by award-winning playwright Theresa Rebeck visits the fundamentals of sexism and favoritism in the workplace.
Eliza, a skilled architect, is eager to make her name at the firm she worked for, but seems to be kept in the corner. It’s been five months of sitting in a cramped office given nothing to do, when all the talented architect wants to do is design. Although Eliza is not always a likable character, Krysta Rodriguez who plays her is a very likable actress. Her character can't seem to get a foothold on even the lowest rung of the architecture firm, but Rodriguez certainly stands at the top of the ladder on the stage when it comes to her spot-on delivery in this play.
Krysta's only female co-worker, the older and more experienced reluctant colleague, Janice, played by CSI's Marg Helgenberger, seems to be unwilling to take notice of young Eliza’s struggles. Chauvinism rears its ugly head in this office of “boys club” mentality; 1992, when the play was written, may not be so far in the past as we’d like to believe.
Jim Parrack gives a nice delivery throughout as co-worker Ben, keeping himself natural and real against many of his co-stars who often lack any real connection and naturalism to their characters. The set is quite remarkable, and possibly the best thing in this play. Designer Narelle Sissons has done a beautiful job. Perfectly in line with what we might expect an architecture firm’s office to look like, the single set provides two open levels, allowing action to take place on both floors if necessary. A nice subtle touch was moments of action taking place on a lit upper level, while one of the characters sits quietly in character with minimal movement and in the dark, on the lower level, for no other reason than to provide a nice visual subtext to what is unfolding above.
The play was relatable to anyone who has ever worked in any kind of office at any time; it was certainly not a black comedy, but more an accurate reflection of the day-to-day office politics with a funny observational commentary spattered throughout. The characters were certainly well established but never seem to grow or arc at any time throughout, leaving us with a feeling of simply being flies on the wall in an office scenario.