Writer: Lynn Rosen
Director: José Zayas
Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell
Offices across the country are populated with people for whom their daily work routine is nothing more than a paycheck; they are just one step (or two or three) away from being able to blow this pop stand and focus full-time on a career as a novelist or actor or rock star. After all, does anyone dream of life as a proofreader? Lynn Rosen’s new play, Washed Up on the Potomac, takes us into one of those stagnant cubicle farms.
When the play opens, it’s an unseasonably hot October day and someone in the proofreading department at a Washington, D.C. ad agency has screwed up BIG TIME. If office manager Giorgio (Debargo Sanyal) can figure out who the culprit is, heads will roll. Folks in proofreading have other things on their minds, though. Kate (Jennifer Morris), a singer-songwriter who’s sure that she’s about to sign a record deal, is trying to get her agent on the phone, while her pal Mark (Adam Green) is writing his “comic novel,” a process which seems to mostly consist of writing ideas on Post-its and sticking them on the flimsy cubicle walls. Their co-worker, Sherri (Crystal Finn), however, is all business—this is her job and she takes it seriously. They’re all distracted by the news that a body has been found “washed up on the Potomac.” That body might be Joyce, their co-worker who disappeared a year ago. As the action of the play unfolds, we see how Joyce’s disappearance has affected these people; they’re drawn to the lurid drama of Joyce’s disappearance, but they love the romance of the story of the girl who walked out of the office one day and never came back. Maybe she’s in Paris, living the dream far away from this place. Or maybe she washed up on the Potomac. The rising temperature outside, a busted air conditioner, and intense pressure over a typo on an ad for a major client make for a pressure cooker of an office where attractions and resentments can no longer be ignored.
Washed Up On the Potomac has a lot that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever worked in an office; it’s the complicated relationships within the proofreading department that move the play forward. Kate and Mark are prone to make Sherri the butt of their jokes—she lurks around the office in a winter coat despite ninety-degree heat and still lives with her overbearing, ultra-religious mother. Crystal Finn’s excellent portrayal of Sherri seems almost like an imagining of what Carrie White would be like had she stayed home from the prom. Kate, on the other hand, feels like Rosen wrote a teenage boy who’s way into Led Zeppelin and decided he should be in a 39-year-old woman’s body. Every other line involves an air guitar solo, which gets old fast, despite the fact that Jennifer Morris does good work with the character. That Kate’s schtick covers up her substantial insecurity is no surprise, and it feels like we have to sit through a lot of her singing classic rock for that payoff.
Washed Up On the Potomac is running at The Flea’s downstairs space, The Siggy, as part of The Pool, a “pop up theater company” with three plays running in repertory. Though there are a few missteps, this a funny and thoughtful play that contemplates relationships in a close space. It’s an entertaining evening that gives its audience some food for thought.
Runs until 16 December 2017 | Image: Jonas Gustavsson