Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review of Broken Nose Theatre's Plainclothes

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Plainclothes. It was by Spenser Davis and it was directed by Kanomé Jones and Spenser Davis. It was about a department store called Brady's with a large undercover asset protection staff. When a crisis situation arises, the team is forced to adapt to new monitoring and tensions between employees. I think this is a really well-written and performed show with a thought-provoking plot and complex characters. You love all of the characters, even though all of them are flawed. It made me think about the constructs and concepts of race, how people project their emotions and guilt onto others, and how ingrained systems of authority are. I really loved this play.

In the first scene you are introduced to Llermo (Alejandro Tey) and Bobby (Adam Soule) and T (Stephanie Shum). They all work in the same department at the same level with similar pay. They all seem to have fun at work and work well together. They joke around together. They may not really love their job, but they like each other. There is a new woman at the job, Syd (Elise Marie Davis) who wants to become a cop, but is using this as a practice for her real dream job. In this scene they are introducing Syd to how things work at Brady's, when someone tries to steal something in the store. This scene establishes how good things are at Brady's before the incident that is just about to take place. You get to see how close everyone is and you get the contrast with the next scenes so you can see how their relationships have deteriorated. It is very effective that we don't actually see the incident, we just hear it offstage and then T runs in with blood on her shirt. It is a jolt, a jumpstart into this play that just keeps getting more and more high stakes. Throughout the rest of the play you think, anything can happen at any time because this opening scene was so gutting and immediate.

The shoplifters, Jomal (Ben F. Locke) and Pete (David Weiss), are very different people but seem to shoplift for similar reasons. Jomal is a hyper, enthusiastic, and wears brightly colored booty shorts. But under that happy, carefree exterior is a more self-conscious person who thinks about his past actions. Pete is a internet star who seems to either have fallen on hard times or just wanted to steal something. They both seem to be compelled to get in trouble and have this strange confidence that they won't get caught even when they do. Pete is more snotty in his cockiness because he thinks his fame and money can get him out of anything. Jomal has a lot of confidence too, and no one seems to be able to bring him down, so it is surprising when Mary (RjW Mays) seems to be able to. Mary works in the lingerie section at Brady's and she and Jomal are frenemies; they argue a lot but seem to really like each other. She's always teasing him about the spelling of his name. But there is a shift in what Mary shows as her personality which was a very surprising and interesting way to conclude her character arc. She shows that she is capable of prejudice even against her own race.

Karina (Carmen Molina) is a supervisor for the undercover team. We don't see her until the second scene when she conveys what happened offstage that we did not see. At first, she seems like she might be a side character, might not ever show up again, because the first purpose we see her serve is just to convey information. But then we start to follow her and her relationships. We see one of the most quickly developed story arcs in the show. It runs parallel for awhile to T's story arc, then they cross paths, but they come to different conclusions. They both realize how corrupt Brady's really is, and they both have opportunities to climb the ladder--but the opportunities are not what they seem.

People who would like this show are people who like jolting opening scenes, interesting character arcs, and booty-short shoplifters. I think this is an absorbing, funny, and thought-provoking show. It has a really interesting plot and has phenomenal actors. I would definitely recommend seeing it.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

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