archive
links
essays

tempOdyssey

[The following review is scheduled to appear on Variety.com the week of November 5th. and in Variety magazine the week of November 12th]

Little Genny (Dee Covington) dreams she has her Daddy (Verl J. Hite) by the throat
Little Genny (Dee Covington)
dreams she has her Daddy
(Verl J. Hite) by the throat
Photo: April Archer
In the absence of vision quests and other life-defining rituals, our contemporary self-concepts are often shaped by the seemingly random whims of parentage and commercial interests, as is the case with Genny—raised on a Georgia chicken farm and now an office temp in Seattle—in Dan Dietz's wide-ranging comedy, tempOdyssey. As the title suggests, beneath Dietz's witty explication of temp life lies a paean to Genny's epic struggle as human being in a wondrous and often unforgiving universe.

Dietz's imaginative script—which shifts between the heavens, Seattle, and Georgia at the drop of a number two pencil or a misfiled financial statement—would present a daunting challenge for any theatre company, but the solutions displayed by director Chip Walton's team at Curious Theatre Company delight us with their ingenuity and crackerjack execution, including a cosmic kiss that transports us from a mundane office building to the edge of creation and back in seconds.

Riding atop these eye-popping shifts in space-time are mind-bending monologues, tightly-crafted confrontations, and amusing repartee that tick down to Genny's gut issues, represented by a glowing bomb that is set to blow. Her troubled past comes to a head amongst a towering maze of filing cabinets in a sub-basement hidden below the myriad corridors of hi-tech Seattle, where she totters on the verge of blowing up her world and taking collateral damage.

Genny (Dee Covington) ponders the untenable circumstances of a temp
Genny (Dee Covington) ponders the
untenable circumstances of a temp
Photo: April Archer
As our modern day Odysseus, Genny, Dee Covington's shifts in age and disposition are a marvel—her voice at times dulcet, her dialect a subtle twang, her girlishness evident; then, transplanted from one coast to the other in the next scene, we hear no trace of regionalism in a voice aged by a personal mythology born of traumatic coincidences and nightmares. Scene after scene, Covington amazes with her mile-a-minute pacing of Dietz's phantasmagoric descriptions and anxious outbursts, deftly gear-shifting as needed for comedic effect or life-altering considerations.

Genny's latest job at Ithacatech-nosolutions.com comes with a mentor and nemesis in the same person, Jim, who was trained by the best temps of the age. "I will do everything for you but be yours," is how he frames his acquired wisdom to Genny. As he explains it, his free agency gives him as much power as the company VP, with keys to the commissary and the executive water closet.

Jim (Jason Henning) explains the temp ropes to Genny (Dee Covington)
Jim (Jason Henning) explains the temp
ropes to Genny (Dee Covington)
Photo: April Archer
Jason Henning crafts a breezy Jim—part elf, part mamzer—who connives his way under Genny's skin until that fateful moment when their lips meet. Then, just as has been predicted by company scientists, we see that the galaxies can, indeed, turn themselves inside out. Henning's impish energy, both loveable and annoying, casts a humorous glow on Genny's otherwise improbable and dark version of events.

Rhonda Brown's imperturbable turns—as the over-sexed secretary, the icy temp-goddess, Fran, and Genny's bible-fearing Mama—along with Verl J. Hite's genuine, no-nonsense Daddy, and Michael McNeill's panoply of company fixtures—the yes man, the cold-calculating scientist, and the gopher—feed the madcap atmosphere. In concert, Shannon McKinney's lighting and Charles Dean Packard's scenic design pull off effects generally reserved for the cinema.

Jim (Jason Henning) ponders his last will and testament
Jim (Jason Henning) ponders
his last will and testament
Photo: April Archer
About the only place where the production fails to realize Dietz's vision is in the last scene when an elevator tone is supposed to signal Genny's conveyance to a place of hope and renewed opportunity. Not having been provided enough of a bridge back to reality, we instead fear for her life at the hands of police snipers.

Though the world can be as manipulative and neurotic as Genny sees it, her survival, like our own, depends on overcoming the fight or flight instinct and trusting others. A deep breath before her exit would have gone a long ways towards conveying Genny's catharsis and budding transformation into enlightened temphood for which Fran and Jim have coached her and for which Dietz's script calls.

Curious Theatre Company's world premiere of Dietz's tempOdyssey runs through December 16th. For ticket information: 303-623-0524 or www.curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows

 

Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster