Conference Room A
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 13, 2005
The night began with a few chuckles and I thought I was in for an hour of trite comedy about office politics and sexual innuendo. But at some point, Conference Room A turns into something deeper and much more fulfilling than that.
The story revolves around three officemates who work in a featureless corner cubical of a nameless company in the Financial District. The supervisor, Brent, is a conservative yes-man and somewhat of a wimp. His presence (and his whiny voice) command little respect from his co-workers. Robbie, on the other hand, is brash and charismatic. He’s not the ideal employee: he's always late and he has “attitude” problems. And finally there’s Jill, a beautiful intern (though she claims she’s not an intern anymore) who finds herself torn between the nice guy with a future and the bad boy who can satisfy her. There is not much of a plot but a lot of sex talk is bounced around and each character’s attitude regarding sex quickly becomes clear.
Brent is looking for a soulmate—the one true love he is absolutely positive is out there waiting for him. He even believes that he has “cheated” on her because he had sex with a girl in college. Jill is more complex and even a little confused. On the one hand, she is a wild party girl who likes dirty sex, while on the other she wants the security she feels she can only get from a conservative man that she can totally dominate. Robbie is also very complicated. He wants wild sex, sure, but he also wants friendship and, most importantly, loyalty. Robbie comes across as kind of a jerk, but he’s actually the most decent one of the bunch.
For me, it is complexities of the characters that really makes Conference Room A an engaging play. Playwright-producer Ben Cikanek slowly feeds us these complexities, filling in details about what at first seem like one-dimensional characters until, by the end, they are complete people with desires that go beyond their groins. Cikanek has each character manipulating the others, but what I found endlessly fascinating was trying to figure out just who is manipulating whom. Who is truly “playing the game” of office and sexual politics, and who dares to break away or break the rules and just be a real person? Granted, there are a few moments in the dialogue that don’t ring as real or true as they could, and there are few contrived exits that are obvious devices to get characters alone, but I’m sure these can be worked out.
The cast does a great job creating characters that I really began to care about. John Peery as Brent is so convincing as the spineless, soulmate-searching supervisor that I had to keep telling myself that he was just acting. Candice Holdorf portrays Jill with such depth that I saw her beauty as a grand entrance to a character (and actor) that I wanted to know more about. Finally, Josh Tyson as Robbie steals the night. He is a focused and volatile actor who is equally at home showing deep emotion as he is shooting off sarcastic and often offensive remarks.
Director Mike Klar does a good job staging the dynamics of the characters by at times placing physical obstacles between them, while at other times putting them right in each other’s faces. Heather Klar provides some attractive and indicative costumes.