Do you wish you could just do your job without administrative red tape? Does your job affect your whole life? Do you actually like your job?
Answer yes to any of those questions and you’ll feel right at home with Adam Bock’s “The Typographer’s Dream.” Durham-based Black Ops Theatre’s production elicits laughs at common work situations but also reveals workers’ dissatisfaction.
The setting is a job fair panel discussion. Three people sit at a small table: Dave, a stenographer, Annalise, a geographer, and Margaret, a typographer. As they explain what they do for a living, their personality quirks immediately come through.
Dave constantly searches for the right words, often correcting himself as he talks about the precision and impartiality to which a court reporter (his actual job) must adhere. Annalise assertively expounds on her profession’s contributions to politics, science and economics. She often interrupts the others, which is especially trying for Margaret, who finds it difficult to put her affinity for fonts and spacing into words.
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Soon, little cracks appear in their seeming enthusiasm: Dave’s vigilant neutrality in recording court cases keeps him from expressing his real feelings; Annalise acknowledges her profession is usually deemed a negligible subset of social studies; Margaret hates the idea of designing text to manipulate consumers. But eventually all three become defensive about their jobs and critical of the others.
Bock packs a lot into his 70-minute one-act, exploring many aspects of how people perceive and value themselves. Director JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell gets vivid characterizations from her cast and cleverly varies the action over the limited playing space. The three actors are somewhat younger than ideal for the depth of experience the script indicates these workers have, but they confidently execute their dialogue and comic timing.
Lazarus Simmons’ Dave is amusingly fussy and tentative, his obsession with details hindering his private life. JoRose’s Annalise exudes smug rectitude as she eagerly tells the others what they should be doing with their lives. Jessica Flemming gets Margaret’s artistic response to type design as well as her disgust at making so little money at such work.
The play strikes familiar chords in surprising ways, while the production fulfills the company’s goal of presenting black artists in a range of genres.
What: “The Typographer’s Dream” presented by Black Ops Theatre
Where: Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham
When: 8:15 p.m. Dec. 2-3, 8-10, 14-17; 2 p.m. Dec. 11
Tickets: $12-$20 (seniors/military $2 off; students $6-$10)
Info: 919-682-3343 or manbitesdogtheater.org