Written by Václav Havel
Directed by Trevor Schmidt Starring Edmund Stapleton, Cayley Thomas, Lianna Makuch, Mat Simpson, Sam Jeffery, Patricia Cerda and Perry Gratton
Timms Centre for the Arts (87 Avenue and 112 Street)
Runs Nov. 1 - 10 at 7:30 p.m., preview on Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m., matinee Nov. 8 at 12:30 p.m. No show on Nov. 4
$11 for students at the Timms Centre Box Office
Perversely stylized and absurd, The Memorandum presents a disorienting look at the instability of corporate bureaucracy, one that demands every bit of attention from the audience. With energetic dialogue and impressive physical comedy, the play captures the audience’s imagination with ease, taking them on a wild ride through a maze of sexuality and office intrigue.
Opening within the circular office of Mr. Gross (Edmund Stapleton), head of an unnamed corporate entity, the play immediately lets us know what type of shenanigans we’re in for. We’re introduced to each character in a mod-inspired dance party revolving around a lonely Gross, standing static in the center and dumbfounded at a memo he has just received. After the dancers leave, Gross begins describing the memo as written in an unfamiliar language bordering on gibberish. To get to the bottom of the puzzling memo, Gross traverses through a surreal bureaucratic structure floundering right under his feet.
Ptydepe, the scientifically constructed language that forms the impetus of the play, is instituted into the corporation in an attempt to maximize efficiency and eliminate emotional subtext and potential misunderstandings. As we soon discover, the repercussions are anything put positive.
The play goes full throttle from the start, with its rapid-fire dialogue forcing the audience to keep a firm ear to the stage at all times. Based on the sheer number of words spewing out every second, it’s no wonder that efficiency is lacking in this company. A testament to the skill of the actors, not a single word is blundered and each line is delivered with ease. Perhaps a play on the current cultural fad of quick-talking and witty professionals, the writing and delivery in The Memorandum is on a level that could give famous writers like Aaron Sorkin a run for his money.
The hive-like structure of the corporate office perfectly complements the high-strung characters housed within. Its modular walls and modernist furniture are a curious send-up of shows like Mad Men that celebrate the chic mid-century modernism of 50s design and fashion. The Memorandum also takes the restrained sexuality of Mad Men and brings it to the surface with characters frequently performing implicit sexual maneuvers alongside their dialogue.
The strongest aspect of the play is each actor’s ability to flawlessly ride waves of dense and clever dialogue while waltzing around the stage in high heels and tailored suits. In this office, furniture is not used simply for idle chatter, but used to highlight the plays physical comedy aspects. Various pieces of office decor become sexualized pedestals, as characters are mounted and tables are spanked in an aggressive showing of office perversion.
With its unrestrained exploration of the bewildering aspects of corporate bureaucracy, The Memorandum demands sustained and unbroken attention throughout. With each actor seamlessly blending verbal acting with choreography, the audience will find themselves fully invested in this surreal organization that’s ultimately not too far off from reality.