Regional Reviews: Chicago
The point of all of this is that the Profiles Theatre company has either gotten very lucky, or pulled-off one of those amazing coups, with the Midwestern premiere of the hour-long workplace comedy The Thugs. Just weeks after the tremendous shocks to world financial markets, playwright Adam Bock's script crash-lands on stage with all the panic and dread of working for a large, faceless corporation where Something's Afoot. And somehow, I don't think you could get the rights to any play and then produce one as complex as this in the few months since the downfall of AIG or Bear-Stearns.
To seal the deal, the show is jam-packed (in spite of its brevity) with a million little pieces of gossip and back-biting and pecking-orders and is, in its own quiet way very, very funny thanks to director Joe Jahraus. Caroline Dodge Latta is hilarious and more than a bit harrowing as the muttering, pleading Mercedes, and Somer Benson is primly fearsome as the waspish office-manager Diane. The whole cast is as sharp (and as wicked) as a tack on a swivel chair.
The action seems to revolve around a bunch of law clerks working on boxes and boxes of evidence and reams of testimony, with markers and colored tabs and a steady pounding of ink-pad stamps beating away like a fevered pulse. But, of course, there's a rumor mill (fueled by the breathless and very funny Bob Pries) regarding a couple of deaths elsewhere in the great building, and strange signs that something larger is going on.
There's a fair amount of lively, humorous discussion about modern serfdom, itinerant workers and the pointlessness of today's civil courts system, with charming and tragic turns for Greta Honold, Jasmine McNeely, Annie Slivinski and Tori Ulrich. Tyler Gray also pops in for a moment that somehow makes life exponentially worse for the drones who still hope for happiness in the outside world.
Gradually, a series of events (and a couple of terrible thunderstorms) seem to add up to the end of the world, or at least The World Inside, if you remember Robert Silverberg's 1971 novel about the massive skyscrapers of the 24th century. An insular sort of cult develops in this present day office, devoted to the rumor-mill, and (in that context) perhaps the abrupt conclusion of The Thugs also says something volatile about religion itself.
Through December 14, 2008, at the Profiles Theatre, 4147 North Broadway, in repertory with Jason Wells' Men of Tortuga. For information, call (773) 549-1815, or visit them online at www.profilestheatre.org.
* Denotes Profiles Ensemble Member
Photo: Michael Godek