An Uneven ‘Patterns’
At The Theater with Audrey Linden
Playwright, James Reach has adapted this drama from a teleplay by Rod Serling about corporate greed, and lack of concern for the individual worker. The corrosive and abrasive head of Ramsay & Company, Mr. Ramsay, could be a prototype of Donald Trump, minus the hair comb over. Jules Aaron directed this enthusiastic ensemble of thirteen fine actors, but even his superb direction could not mask the inherent flaws in the writing. There was too much waffling back and forth. The play takes place in New York City in 1955, and surprisingly, corporate greed and take overs were a topic way back then. It is “expansion and diversification” and “out with the little guy” and “in with the octopus.”
Jeff G. Rack’s office set, with faux gray marble walls, cubicles for the secretaries on a split level worked so well to create the corporate office environment. Joseph “Sloe’s” sound effects helped create the reality with coke machine sounds, phones and elevator sounds. Judi Lewin’s hair and wig design stood out as did Michele Young’s costumes.
Ramsay, well-acted by by Richard Hoyt Miller has lured Fred Sloan, (Daniel Kaemon) away from his smaller, more family oriented company in Ohio where he was an engineer with a background in Industrial Relations. Staples’ wife, Fran, (Savannah Schoenecker) stands behind him all the way to push him to the top. Fran has a master plan for Fred and sees him as President of the company in two years. Fred Staples doesn’t know he is the replacement for long-time Assistant General Manager, Andy Sloane who was with the company when Ramsay’s father founded it. Sloane is not tolerated. He and Ramsay don’t see eye-to-eye on anything corporate. And, Ramsay rides Sloane publically at meetings subjecting him to ridicule in the hope he will force his resignation. James Schendel’s plays his Soane as a sympathetic guy who once had the gumption to stand up for his rights and who spoke his mind. Now, he is scorned, and driven to drink.
Staples is eager to please and he takes a liking to the older Sloane. The secretaries know the score and there is gossip that Staples is the replacement for Sloane. The only one who doesn’t know is the very naive Staples, who befriends Soane’s son, Paul. Ramsay frowns on interpersonal relationships. “The maudlin streak of emotionalism and sentiment has no place here.” Save it “for the boudoir and not the boardroom.”
Sloane’s secretary, Marge Fleming, (Sharron Shayne) knows that Staples is the replacement for her boss. Her loyalty was palpable and her acting so very convincing. Marge has been assigned double-duty to cover for Staples until a new secretary is hired, which will be never. Ramsay’s secretary, Margaret Lanier (Elaine Rinehart) is above the gossip and has an air of superiority. The secretaries become a Greek chorus for the unfolding drama. “You girls can find hidden meanings in wall coverings.” They are the “private seismograph.” Martha Stevens, (Cathy Diane Tomlin) helms the ship at the switchboard and keeps an even keel.
Ramsay is out to get rid of Sloane, “the sweet, old keepsake.” Fran gives a report written by Andy Sloane and her husband to Ramsay who removes Sloane’s name and credits Fred alone. This is where the hemming and hawing started and broke down the momentum. Fred Staples gets angry at his pushy wife, but he doesn’t stand up for Sloane as the writer. “You married me as a hunk of gelatin you could mold.” Seems he gets gumption only to lose it.
Will Fred Staples assert himself and tell the truth? Will he stand up to both his wife, Fran and to Gordon Ramsay? Will he set the record straight? Will he become the pawn for Ramsay or become his conscience? Though some of the waffling becomes tedious, the play moves into a gripping climax and ending.
“Patterns” runs through August 23rd at Theatre 40 at The Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212 on the Beverly Hills High campus. There is ample free parking in the structure.
Call 310-364-0535 for reservations or go on line to www.theatre40.org