Work Related | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Room 41, at Cafe Voltaire.

Of course huge, dehumanizing corporate environments breed eccentric habits, but playwright Brett Neveu isn't interested in stereotypes or self-centered, complaining harangues. Instead, in these 11 short monologues--average length is three minutes--he offers fragmented portraits of lonely individuals struggling for a foothold in an impersonal environment.

Tim's foothold is the splendid view from his office window, which he resents sharing, however briefly. Cal, the statistician, contemplates the Armageddon that will lay waste his calculations. Dave takes silent, intricately routed pilgrimages to the watercooler from his overheated corner cubicle. But others lack even these small solaces: Jason develops influenza symptoms after seeing his boyfriend and supervisor chatting together. Ericka is so accustomed to following orders that she barely utters a word during a spontaneous dinner date initiated by a complete stranger. And Elizabeth, after the bombing death of a colleague, abruptly leaves her job, exhorting her coworkers not to inquire after her.

Neveu's script is sometimes sketchy to the point of enigma, and Inger Hatlen--who portrays all the characters, under the direction of Margaret DuBe--gives all of them the same voice, pacing, and stance. But Room 41, making its debut in this production, does strive to go beyond cliche, to make serious inquiries into the quiet despair permeating our civilization on the eve of the millennium.

In my review last week of Christmas by Remote Control I erred in saying the show comes to us "via the Beverly Theatre Guild." Though it has been produced by them in the past, this is an independent production.

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