One of the main themes of Hamilton: An American Musical is how perspective can change depending on who’s telling a particular story. That theme is also key to Gloria, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play making its regional premiere with Dallas Theater Center in the Wyly’s Studio Theatre through January 22.
Set in the offices of a magazine in New York, we’re introduced to the lives of various employees, including the schlubby Dean (Drew Wall), perky Ana (Grace Montie), bitchy Kendra (Satomi Blair), upbeat intern Miles (Ryan Woods), stressed-out Lorin (Michael Federico), and moody Gloria (Leah Spillman). Each has a different approach and dedication to his or her work, with interoffice politics playing a part in how each person views everyone else.
Without giving away any specifics, you’ll rarely see a more abrupt shift in tone in a play than what happens in Gloria. The first act contains a lot of humorous sniping between the co-workers, as they make fun of each other and compete to get noticed. After a shocking turn of events, the second act becomes more subdued, as various employees meet to discuss their lives and futures.
Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, the play shifts perspective several times, allowing the audience to dig into the personalities of multiple characters. Kendra, whose stream-of-consciousness dialogue has her running roughshod over everyone else, dominates the first act. In the second act, Dean, Lorin, and Nan (also played by Spillman) get more of the spotlight.
Along the way, they confront various harsh realities, including the nebulous nature of publishing in the 21st century, the ephemeral quality of many projects, the offhand violence present in today’s society, and how you can rarely truly know the full lives of those with whom you work.
The Studio Theatre is the ideal stage for a play like this, as it allows the audience to almost feel as if it's a part of the production. This is especially important when emotions run high — during the turning point of the plot, the intensity of the scene is aided immensely by the intimate atmosphere.
Each of the actors shines in his or her own way. Save for Federico, each plays at least two roles, allowing him or her to show off different skills. The cast is so balanced that it’s difficult to favor one over any of the others. They complement each other tremendously, and the play succeeds because of how well they interact.
It’s yet another testament to the versatility of Dallas Theater Center that it can present a complex piece like Gloria at the same time it’s showing the annual A Christmas Carol downstairs. Gloria may not have anything to do with the holidays, but it’s still a must-see.