Thursday, November 9, 2017

Off-Broadway Theater Review: What We're Up Against

Marg Helgenberger and Krysta Rodriguez. Photo: Joan Marcus

What We're Up Against
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
WP Theater
Through Nov. 26

By Lauren Yarger
In the workplace, employees must watch out for sexual harassment. A simple phrase might be taken the wrong way. The twist here, is that the employee lamenting the state of things is a male -- and the boss -- who says men having to deal with women in the office is just part of What We're Up Against in this all-too-timely, darkly humorous play from Theresa Rebeck at WP Theater (formerly the Women's Project.)

It's 1992 and Stu (Damian Young) bemoans the situation to Ben (Jim Parrack of TV's "True Blood"), a co-worker at the architectural firm. New-hire Eliza (Krysta Rodriguez) has complained about never getting a chance to show her architectural skills. All of the guys in the office, especially Weber (Skylar Austin from the "Perfect Pitch" films), get tapped for projects while Eliza gets stuck in a "broom closet" office. She feels Stu just sees her as token woman, and not as the qualified worker the company's owner, David, did when he hired her.  The guys speculate about the relationship between Eliza and David and joke about whether she slept with him to get the job.

Eliza thinks she has a kindred spirit in Janice (Marg Helgenberger), the only other women in the firm, but finds that Janice doesn’t see the harassment in the office as a problem and is willing to present Eliza’s ideas as her own to get ahead.
Scenic Designer Narelle Sissons and Costume Designer Tilly Grimes put us in the 1990s, but the office dynamics clearly could be 2017. Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt focuses attention to keep the hour and 45 minutes of dialogue (with an intermission) brisk.

Rodriguez gives Eliza some depth and sometimes we're not sure just how innocent she is in the scheme of things. Is she sleeping with David? Is she setting up others to fail?  The questions are typical of those asked by those defending themselves against charges of sexual bias and who point to women who stand up for themselves as having attitude problems, so the audience can understand the viewpoints of the coworkers as well as Eliza.  It would be interesting to have Rebeck pen a sequel in 2017 to see how much, if anything has changed for the characters.

What We're Up Against runs through Nov. 26 at WP Theater, 2162 Broadway at 76th Street, NYC. Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm; Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. There is no performance on Thursday, Nov. 23. A 7 pm performance has been added on Sunday, Nov. 26. Tickets are $39-$89: 
wptheater.org; 212-765-1706.

Additional credits:
Lighting Design: Grant Yeager; Sound Design: M.L. Dogg

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language


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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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