“Hello. How are you? Are you nervous? Worried? Depressed? You’ve had to scrape and save. Where has it all gone? Let’s talk business. We boldly settle all the important problems. Interest bearing securities. Bonds. Capitol. Estates. You do nothing yourself,” is a leitmotif, running through Pony World’s new play “Suffering, Inc.”
“Suffering, Inc” re-assembles lines and characters from Anton Chekhov’s plays, but uses a contemporary setting-the office of a financial services company called New Life Capitol to express the same themes as Chekhov’s plays. For anyone who has ever worked in an office or as a telemarketer, this play will speak to your experience. For anyone who is aware of the historical forces which are making our country implode as we march towards impending doom, this play will also speak to you. Chekhov’s plays were written at the very end of the Russian Empire, when all the same historical forces currently destroying the American empire were at work. Like contemporary America, Russia was in dire need of radical change and had an even worse wealth distribution problem than the US. Reactionary forces were trying to impede change causing the empire to implode catastrophically. Nothing could be more poignant than to transpose these themes into the contemporary setting of the financial services industry.
Like Chekhov, this play superbly dramatizes everyday issues and connects them to the universal themes of existential angst and despair. It also connects these themes to the very specific paranoia about the current bleak economic situation. The inner monologues, expressing boredom and despair, are voiced and interspersed with chatter about business.
Woody Allenish humor about existential angst, chronic dissatisfaction and unrequited love are all present. One of the more amusing things was that one of the characters, Ivan played by David Gassner, looks like Chekhov minus the pince-nez
The entire cast, Carrie Cates, Ricky Coates, Martin Dinn, David Gassner, Megan Jackson, Adria LaMorticella and Valerie Mannuccci, was superb, the directing by Brendon Healy with Gabrielle Schutz, was extremely creative. The “set” was just a space in a large room in Washington Hall (the old On The Boards space) No theatrical lighting was used, just the room lighting which was part of the charm, because it really looked like an office. The exposition was cut to the quick by having TV ads about New Life Capitol displayed on a TV screen, so the audience was immediately engaged.
I must confess, I have a special fondness for plays like this, where the acting and directing is excellent; where creativity trumps gimmicks, imported mediocre New York actors and publicity hype.
This play is probably not everybody’s cup of tea, most of the audience looked well over 40, but for those of us who like our tea made by a samovar, it is a must-see. The “writing” of the script was an ensemble piece by the director as well as the actors, if so, this ensemble is clearly going places I would like theatre in Seattle to go to.
“Suffering, Inc” adapted from Anton Chekhov. Directed by Brendan Healy with Gabrielle Schutz. Pony World Theatre. Washington Hall, 153-14th Avenue. (the old On the Boards Space) Oct. 27th through Nov. 19th 8 pm Thurs, Fri, Sat at 8 pm Plus Monday, Nov. 14th. One dollar ticket night Thursday, Nov. 10th. www. ponyworld.org