Comedy, Tragedy, Reality Collide on the Asolo Stage

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY APR 4, 2018

Asolo Repertory Theatre continues a season of hard-hitting theater with tonight’s opening of Gloria, the Pulitzer Prize finalist from rising playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins. Set in the cutthroat world of the New York magazine scene, a shocking workplace incident sends an office of young editorial assistants scrambling to make sense of the disaster—and possibly capitalize on it—in a tale as much about ambition and authorship as it is tragedy. By turns dramatic, thrilling and darkly hilarious, Gloria runs through April 29. Directed by Greg Leaming.

“It’s very dark humor, but very funny,” assures Leaming, knowing the content carries its own stigma. “But no matter who produces the play,” he continues, “you’re going to have to face that fact—that there’s always the possibility of another very raw event.” And Leaming has faith that Gloria has something important to say, balancing the humor to create an enjoyable production but never to overshadow or cheapen the subject matter.

A lot of that comes down to trusting the playwright, and Jacobs-Jenkins has Leaming’s. “He’s one of the greatest playwrights of the 21st century,” Leaming says, and it should come as no surprise that Jacobs-Jenkins’ Pulitzer Prize-nominated work should be controversial or audacious. “He has no fear in writing characters,” Leaming continues, “and no fear in letting his characters be both courageous and unseemly. He never sentimentalizes anything, and his perception of character and the world we’re living in is incredibly astute.”

Due to the shocking nature of the production, the theater has scheduled “talkback” events after every performance—something the theater rarely does, usually opting for a handful throughout the run. These give audience members the chance to discuss the play with each other, and with members of Asolo Rep. Because, though funny, the play is undoubtedly pretty heavy, says Leaming, “and people will want the opportunity to respond to it and deal with it.” And to end with a community discussion seems fitting, to let the audience address their feelings instead of stew. Because, says, Leaming: “It’s not a play about violence; it’s about how people respond to violence.”

Opening tonight at Asolo Repertory Theatre, Gloria runs through April 29.

Pictured: Delphi Borich, Aleksandr Krapivkin and Denise Cormier in Asolo Rep's production of �Gloria.� Photo by John Revisky.

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