In the first show to open the Humana Festival, playwright Lisa Kron, takes the audience into the deep dark of cell phone provider customer service. It begins as Jenni, played by Kron, notices a mistake on her phone bill, and trying to rectify the situation sends her spiraling down into discovering the seamy underbelly of corporate spy intrigue. This self-aware satire stands delightfully well on a great number of jokes, expert comedic acting, and a playful tendency to shift the play’s format and style.
Truly an uproarious romp, Kron spoke with rhythm and timing so naturally, it was clear that the words came from her. As joyful as the writing reveled in Kron’s humor, it made sure to humbly confess its self-aggrandized account of frustration. Early in the production, Jenni says that once one person tells of a customer service problem, everyone else in the room has to jump in and tell their own. So, Kron superseded everyone and just wrote a play starring herself.
Of course, as convincing and hilarious as Kron proved playing a version of herself, the play wouldn’t work on the level it did without a finely tuned comedic cast and very charming production design. Kimberly Hérbert-Gregory as Wanda had a few sermon-like monologues that had me laughing loud enough to annoy the gentleman next to me. The other actors also did a wonderful job of melting into multiple roles, specifically Hannah Bos as Ingrid and Cydney, which played to great effect towards the end.
The plot, characters, and scenarios stretched and bent as the story played out. It was a lively creation that turned a personal consumer outrage into cartoonish fantasy. The adapting set, lighting, and fitting score shifted with the scenes and continually surprised with where they took the characters. It truly was a great deal of fun to watch.
I do have a brief thematic concern. For the vast majority of the show, the play has an understanding of the dichotomy between a consumer’s need for their phone and their willing ignorance with how the infrastructure behind it operates. It then takes the next logical step to just assume that evil lies behind it all, with tongue firmly in cheek. Much of this falls to the wayside as the end turned a bit preachy, trying to find real political action from such a willingly silly premise. To the play’s credit, I did hear a number of speeches from patrons on the way out regarding the unjust system. So maybe it will do good getting conversations started. Regardless, I had a fantastic time.
The Veri**on Play will run through April 1st. Single tickets, weekend passes, and even local passes are available to celebrate this and every other production in the festival. Ticketing information can be found at http://actorstheatre.org/humana-festival-of-new-american-plays/.
Photos: Courtesy Alan Simons