Review “finding grafenberg” (trip): “The Office” meets “Girls”

 

finding gräfenberg_3trip presents the Midwest Premiere of finding grafenberg.

The evening starts out like a gallery opening.  The show is at Hairpin Arts Center, a hip Logan Square loft.  Two walls of windows illuminate the triangle shaped room from the streetscape.  On one side of the room, a couple screens feature pictures from the former New York Times’ offices.  In the rear is a makeshift bar.  Within this setting is an eclectic group of people.  Some are mingling. Some are drinking. Some are sitting on the window ledge.  I’m not sure who is an actor and who is an audience member.  And that’s the point.

‘trip seeks to bridge the gap between the artist and audience.’

In trip’s current offering, writer and director Graham Brown creates a corporate setting for his talented ensemble to delve into office and sexual politics.  Business unfolds on the designated carpet area sans the cubicles.  There isn’t any scenery.  There aren’t even any walls.  There are just people who have been called on the carpet to see what happens next.

Everyone is standing in ready staring at each other to see who is actually scripted to talk. The initial pop-up performances are fun as I determine if I identified the actors from non-actors correctly.  It’s an odd and amusing feeling standing side by side with the actors on this surreal stage. In one of the first interactions, Angela Bend announces to Brown that she ‘doesn’t want to do this anymore.’ Her abrupt statement is momentarily confusing.  Does she mean ‘be at the show’?  And then realization hits that the couple is *IN* the show.  The drama feels uncomfortably close, spontaneous, and personal but so does the humor.  In perfect deadpan, Cyra K. Polizzi contemplates ending her office misery by overdosing on something in the communal medicine cabinet.  Then, she laments that the office manager orders two-pills-a-pack and suicide would require too much effort.  She hilariously opts instead to get buzzed to see if anyone notices.   We’ll notice. We aren’t front row.  We are IN the play and in Polizzi’s business.

Brown’s characters are familiar.  The goofy stereotypes and the libido-driven make it feel like “The Office” meets “Girls” with flashback sides of “Working Girl” meets “Waiting for Guffman.” Brown’s dialogue and direction clips.  Transitions from exchange to exchange have a seamless flow.  The conversations feel organic as interruptions happen naturally. Often walking through a serious moment, Joel Behne and Stephen McClure bring the humor.  As the mailroom stooges, they intently debate, gossip or up each other with mindless trivia.  Throughout the show, Tony St. Clair leers as ‘that guy.’ The guy hanging out at the water cooler and taking it all in.  His only occasional interacting is steeped in inappropriate comments. Then at the Christmas party, St. Clair delivers a hysterical soliloquy with insight about pleasing bosses and the ladies.

The show is about the work in pleasure and the pleasure in work.  The ‘grafenberg’ in finding grafenberg is a client.  Grafenberg is also a reference to Dr. Ernest Grafenberg, who is credited with introducing the G-spot concept.  The entire cast seems to be having fun in the pursuit of staples or sex with the same determination.  The ending is a call-back to poignant statements made earlier in the show and now delivered by a different cast member. That, along with singing “Such a Night”, indicate the cyclical nature of this world.  In the morning, it’ll be business as usual. People will once again be looking for pleasure in their routine.

Running Time:  75 minutes with no intermission

At Hairpin Arts Center, 2810 N. Milwaukee

Written and directed by Graham Brown

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Thru March 14th

Buy Tickets at http://grafenberg.bpt.net

 

For more reviews and information on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.

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