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Albert Camus once said, “Without work, all life goes rotten, but without meaningful work, the soul withers and dies.”
In Peppermint Creek’s new stage play “Gloria,” now playing at Central United Methodist Church’s cavernous Great Room, the lights come up on three 20-something millennials sitting foursquare, desks facing each other.
They are peering over laptops, chatting casually about nothing of consequence, blathering in banalities, asking around as to who did and did not go to officemate Gloria’s party the previous night. A fourth person to complete the group soon joins them, but Gloria is nowhere to be found.
This is a New York publishing house. These folks are writers, sort of. Maybe the Great American novel was once in their earlier imaginative minds — but this “ain’t” that.
Confusion alert: The six characters in this production portray 13 characters. It isn’t always clear as to who is who.
Connor Kelly is Dean (or Devin), a cynic who has been there a while. A disillusioned college graduate, he realizes that his dreams have morphed into a career he does not like.
Unlike Kelly’s work in many previous shows, wherein his performances have bristled with electricity, Kelly here appears to phone in his character. Laconic, to be sure, but is it intentional?
Anasti Her is Kendra (or Jenna). Her character is full of herself, empty of empathy and deep down shallow, annoyingly so.
The contrast could be compelling, but Her pushes it way too hard. The outcome is exhausting.
Matters are made worse when Adam Carson (Lorin), shows up onstage and over-the-top, begs, pleads, nay exhorts people to quiet down. Two histrionics in one play; one scene — it’s too much.
The intern Ndegwa McCloud joins these two. Mild-mannered, exceedingly over-accommodating, his character is relegated for the most part to running to get lattes for whoever demands it of him.
Storm Kopitsch rounds out the bunch, filling in the gaps in conversation with nothing much, a lot of active listening. That’s it.
Will these people fulfill Camus’ prophecy: In the absence of meaningful work, see their souls die?
Gloria, played by Fillona Thomas — and who has only drifted in and out of the scene twice and looks weird to the foursome and weirder to the critic — resolves that issue quickly.
She pulls out a chrome-plated six-shooter worthy of the Lone Ranger and promptly shoots two of them. End of act one.
We soon learn as act two opens, a few years later, that Gloria has shot, killed or maimed 18 people, including herself.
A reason? Nuance? Not explained at all.
Act two, in two scenes, elaborates the basic premise of the play: A tragedy can easily morph into opportunism, as the characters that survive a horrible event find ways to exploit it. Whatever post-traumatic stress there is for survivors, it is suppressed, transformed into profitable memoirs, a television show or a movie. Cynicism abounds.
$15, General admission
Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 23-25, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2 p.m.
Peppermint Creek/Central United Methodist
215 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing
(517) 927-3016, peppermintcreek.org