Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
The Typographer's Dream
Also see Garrett's review of The May Queen
The Typographer's Dream, presented by Manbites Dog Theater in association with Black Ops Theatre (also based in Durham), takes us into the minds of three people with very specific professions: a geographer, a stenographer, and a typographer. Their monologues to the audience and their dialogues amongst themselves reveal that the work we choose to do often plays a significant role in how we define ourselves.
Dave the stenographer, humorously interpreted by Lazarus Simmons, is dressed pristinely in a suit and speaks with the stuffy, detailed precision you might expect from one assigned the responsibility of a court reporter. Next is Annalise the geographer, performed with animated veracity by JoRose, who in her ethnic hippie dress evokes Mother Earth as she describes the affection she has for the intricacies of tectonic plates, boundary lines, and climatic patterns, running off on tangents but chastising anyone who doesn't notice the world the way she does. The typographer, Margaret, a commanding Jessica Flemming, conveys her passion for her work but seems a bit confused and neurotic at the same time.
These three sit at a single table, fiddle around with various objects associated with their fields, and attempt to explain the amazing complexities of their professions without boring us, gradually realizing that their careers are, in fact, quiet boring and even unfulfilling. Flashbacks of dialogue show how each is ready to point out the flaws in the other's personality based on their work (Annalise is quick to observe that Dave always uses the pronoun you and never I), yet at the same time not able to see their own. Eventually, Margaret realizes that it is just "a goddam job!" and Dave admits that in his work he is always referencing what others do and never focusing on himself and what is happening to him. By the end, after desperately trying to make their cases and not succeeding, the three give up and simply say, as they did in their introductions, "I am a typographer. I am a geographer. I am a stenographer."
Director and costume designer JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell has done a fine job bringing this production to life within the small black box of Manbites Dog Theater. The Black Ops Theatre Company honors the work of black artists, and that pride pervades, from the "Song of Solomon" T-shirt Margaret wears underneath her blazer to the huge map of the continent of Africa hung proudly by Annalise to analyze and admire. Liza Suzanne's lighting design greatly enhances the mood and marks the shifts in scene, helping to enliven a single-set production of just three people talking primarily to the audience. The play rests significantly on the capabilities of these three actors, who succeed in enticing us onto their personal journeys.
The Typographer's Dream premiered in 2002, one of a string of thought-provoking plays by the Canadian Adam Bock. It challenges the audience to question our own career choices. As Dave asks, "It doesn't make sense to not like your job, right?" If you don't, you should just quit your job. Easier said than done, especially if doing so may erase a part of who you are and how you understand your existence.
The Typographer's Dream is presented by Manbites Dog Theater and Black Ops Theatre, 703 Foster Street, Durham, North Carolina, through December 17, 2016. $20 Fri/Sat/Sun; $12 Wed/Thurs; Military/Senior (62+) $2 discount; Youth/Students $10 weekends and $6 weeknights. Season Flex Passes are good for all shows. Tickets can be purchased online at www.manbitesdogtheater.org or by phone at 919-682-3343.
Playwright: Adam Bock