SummerWorks Play Review: Combat, August 6

Toronto – I suppose that at some point in your career you might think of some conflict in your workplace in terms of a war. Maybe some passive aggressive type two cubicles over plays their music too loud, like they’re firing a hail of bullets over your head, or there’s a woman who acts abnormally sweet but is secretly hating everyone in the office and one day explodes like a grenade into screaming fragments of neuroses.

It’s not too difficult a metaphor to grasp. Combat drives it home by occasionally disrupting the action at a Shopping Network call centre with the actors setting up and playing war with toy soldiers on stage. Lead Virgilia Griffith plays the “rookie” at the call centre, and quickly becomes a little too good at her job, irritating her more competitive, chatty co-worker and inflaming the already tense workplace environment that also includes chatty guy’s underappreciated girlfriend, their well-meaning but cloying boss, and their emotionally fragile operator. Griffith also breaks in occasionally with a monologue where she’s arguing with her supervisors at another job, where she tries (but fails) to point out how bad the idea of planting pomegranite trees in Canada is. While she’s doing this, the other actors continue to set up plastic army men; they also sometimes army crawl around the stage and break into some contemporary dance-type moves that seem somehow combat-like.

Combat kind of hammers this workplace conflict-as-combat thing home repeatedly, but the action at the call centre is entertaining, particularly the hysterics of the emotionally fragile operator (Lisa Codrington) and the charm-turned-frustration of the chatty co-worker (Dylan Smith). The transitions from monologue to call centre to dance scene are sometimes a bit jarring and occasionally it feels like the playing with plastic army men on stage goes on a bit too long and belabours the point (ok, workplaces are like combat sometimes, I get it). It’s not a bad show, though, and worth a look.

Combat runs through Sunday August 14th as part of SummerWorks. Check the website for schedule and tickets.

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Posted on by Brian in Reviews, Summerworks, Theatre

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