By Kimberly Rau
In an age where people are expected to be connected 24/7, the irony is that we are often most disconnected from what’s right in front of us. In an era of snap judgment and immediate gratification, celebrity often follows tragedy, and grasping the brass ring of five minutes of fame is worth jettisoning friendships. And that’s the premise behind Gloria, which starts out in a 2010 magazine newsroom, where three young employees are already jaded in their careers, one intern is more than disappointed with his experience, and the editorial staff is completely checked out. And then tragedy strikes, and the aftermath seems to be almost more important than the events that led up to it.
“Gloria,” a relatively new work by Branden Jacob-Jenkins, shines bright at the Gamm. It’s a script that reflects highly on our times, down to the stereotypical rants of a disenchanted millennial generation, and a huge plot twist right at the end of Act 1 that the Gamm staff has asked reviewers not to give away. No matter, it’s not the twist that makes the show, and in a production where almost everyone doubles up on roles, you get the sense that it’s not even the individual characters that make this piece worth talking about. Instead it’s the sucker punch of reality that will have you thinking well after the show is over. And under the direction of Rachel Walshe, and with stellar acting across the board, you can’t help but have the show on your mind.
Jeff Church, a veteran Gamm actor, plays Dean, the just-slightly-too-old-for-his-coworkers journalist who doesn’t quite understand texting etiquette (“I thought you were joking!” protests one of his coworkers, when Dean asks why she didn’t attend an event) and seems to be marking time until he can move on to bigger and better things. By contrast, Jordan Clark is, in Act 1, a larger-than-life opinionated editorial assistant, Kendra, who is all about being present in the moment…or at least present enough to determine she has time to abdicate responsibility and run to Starbucks. Kendra and Dean are polar opposites and Church and Clark are the perfect counterparts to bring every ounce of tension and frustration to a boiling point.
One of the only characters that seems to be making an attempt to engage at work is the geeky Lorin, played by Gabriel Graetz. He’s quiet where everyone else is loud, and sees his co-workers’ black and white world with much more nuance. His attempts to forge connection are a through-line for the show.
Jennifer Mischely plays both the quiet and strange Gloria and the all-about-me editor Nan. They’re two roles that couldn’t be more different and Mischley handles both with ease. They may not be likeable characters, but they’re real, and relatable, even when doing the unthinkable. Even if Gloria isn’t on stage much, her actions are ultimately the driving force behind every other character.
Truly, this is a unique show, one that tackles hard topics and leaves you with no clear answers, but plenty to think about. It’s a much different direction from Gamm’s season opener, Night of the Iguana, but just as impactful. If you like nontraditional theater, this is one not to be missed.
Gloria runs through Dec. 16 at The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick. Tickets start at $44 and may be obtained by calling 401.723.4266 or online at gammtheatre.org.