Business as usual in “The Receptionist”

Dark & Stormy invites audiences over for a little fun at the office.

by Joe Kellen

Swivel chairs, cubicles and fluorescent lights are spectacularly mundane, and playwright Adam Bock’s “The Receptionist” embraces them all.

Ben McGovern, the director of Dark & Stormy Productions’ version of the play, was excited by the potential for boredom from the start.

“Something banal in real life becomes interesting just by the fact that we’re witnessing it,” he said.

McGovern figured that the best way to play this material was to place the cast and spectators in a real office in Minneapolis. The audience observes general office behavior for a significant chunk of the play.

“The audience becomes a guest in the real world,” he said.

Sally Wingert, who plays the receptionist Beverly Wilkins, said it’s been challenging to capture the sense of busywork.

“There is something immediately accessible to the experience of an office,” she said. “Everyone’s dealt with a receptionist.”

Of course, the play isn’t all about answering phones and dealing with coworkers. “The Receptionist” takes a dark turn when the office is visited by someone from the central branch — played by associate artistic director Bill McCallum — requesting to speak with Wingert’s absent boss (Harry Waters Jr.).

The tone transitions from deadpan humor to an exploration of corruption âîÄ whom you can trust and what it means to be complicit in evil. “The Receptionist” focuses on what we hide not only from our colleagues, but also from ourselves.

“It demands a certain culture and a denial of your outside-of-the-office life,” McCallum said. “You’ve got to behave a certain way to fit the protocol.”

Artistic director and performer Sara Marsh wants Dark & Stormy to continue producing site-specific material as a way to invite audiences into a space that they may never have considered fit for a play.

 “The immediacy of it is so exciting,” she said. “It’s right in front of you, there’s no hiding behind anything.”

Besides attempting to draw new faces in the theatergoing public with a site-specific work, Dark & Stormy focuses on bringing the next generation of artists into the spotlight.

The company lists the University of Minnesota’s own Mary Shabatura as one of its advisory board members. Marsh said Shabatura and other young local artists are indispensable to the future of the scene.

“It’s an incredible learning experience,” she said. “I want to work with the best of the best.”

 

What: “The Receptionist”
When: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 11-Jan. 4
Where: Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art, 250 N. Third Ave., Suite 500, Minneapolis
Cost: $15-25