Disturbing, provocative, and darkly funny. Those are three adjectives that continually represent the plays and musicals that Stray Cat Theatre presents; their latest offering, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Pulitzer Prize-finalist play Gloria, delivers on all three. It's deeply unsettling at times, thought provoking, and often hilarious. While there are some moments that are shocking, it's also a biting satire of office politics that will make you think about the way we treat others and how kindness and compassion seem to have been forgotten in our current internet and app-focused world where everyone has their nose in their screen of choice and isn't always "present.
Jacobs-Jenkins' dialogue, characters, and plot points are focused and realistic. He clearly defines the unhealthy nature of this work environment, where rivalries, pettiness, and awkward social situations overshadow the work; anyone who has worked in corporate America will find much in the characters and situations that resonates and may make them shudder. He also makes you think about the aftermath of trauma. Who is a victim and who is just a leech looking to profit off the suffering of others?
Dolores E. Mendoza is an actress in town I've admired for many years. She is making her full-length directorial debut with this production and her work here is impeccable. The attention she has given to ensuring that each character is unique (not always easy to do when all but one of your cast play multiple roles), with focused portrayals, and that the situations, both humorous and horrific, ring true is commendable. Her staging is varied and effectively uses the space well.
David J. Castellano's multi-purpose scenic design is excellent in its versatility to portray three different locations. The lighting design by Stacey Walston evokes the harsh overhead lighting of corporate America, and Jessie Tully's costumes are character appropriate. Garrett Unterreiner's sound design provides several effective sound effects and Rachelle Dart's fight choreography includes a slap that is so realistic you can feel the sharp sting of it even seated a dozen rows back from the stage.
The cast is also top-notch, with great work from Johnny Kalita and Willa Eigo as the bickering and antagonizing Dean and Kendra, and Megan Holcomb, stellar as always, as two vastly different individuals, Gloria and Dean's boss Nan. In smaller roles, Sabrina Harding and Everett Purvall derive distinct individuals. As good as those five cast members are, and they are very good, it's the emotionally sound and moving performance in act three by Jonathan Hernandez as Lorin that will resonate the most–his quiet, fragile, and personal plea for kindness and compassion is one we all need to sit up and pay attention to.