SPINE: Theresa Rebeck’s ‘What We’re Up Against’ at Keegan Theatre

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Theresa Rebeck’s sharp-knuckled comedy, What We’re Up Against, received its regional premiere at Keegan Theatre this week, and the laughs abound.

l to R: Brianna Letourneau, Michael Innocenti, Carolyn Kashner, Stephen Russell Murray, and Peter Finnegan. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

L to R: Brianna Letourneau, Michael Innocenti, Carolyn Kashner, Stephen Russell Murray, and Peter Finnegan. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

An architectural firm hires a young talented architect who is eager to work. Unfortunately, for the firm, this architect is not only talented but also a woman. And her immediate supervisor is none too pleased.

Rebeck’s script premiered at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 2012. It’s funny and fast-pasted, and Director Susan Marie Rhea does an excellent job orchestrating the pace and the humor.

And her top-notch cast of Peter Finnegan (Stu), Michael Innocenti (Ben), Brianna Letourneau (Eliza), Carolyn Kashner (Janice), and Stephen Russell Murray (Weber) makes every moment more fun than the one before it.

I will admit to occasionally feeling a bit in a time warp, as wet-bars in work spaces acted like flashbacks to TV’s Mad Men, circa early 1960s. Do architectural firms with multimillion dollar contracts have scotch swilling designers and drunken project managers? If so, no wonder the economy on shaky footing.

But don’t worry. The answer to that and other factual questions about workplace ridiculousness won’t linger long. Rebeck’s comedy, full of incisive dialogue and well structured scenes, doesn’t lie still long enough to be questioned.

The sexism her script offers to the audience isn’t subtle with 50 shades of grey to obscure the humiliation: it’s as farcical as a clown in a red nose.

As soon as the play starts and the first man opens his mouth, you’ll shout “Good Ol’ Boys’ Network” meets the talented outsider.

And the “What We’re Up Against” that the play’s title flashes isn’t just about what this talented woman, Eliza (Ms. Letourneau), has to face in the workplace.

In an ironic twist, Rebeck introduces the theme in a line first pronounced by Stu, Eliza’s arch-enemy. He tells co-worker Ben that women have invaded the firm and they are out to take their manhood away.

Peter Finnegan, Brianna Letourneau,and Stephen Russell Murray. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

Peter Finnegan, Brianna Letourneau, and Stephen Russell Murray. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

Let the war games begin! The old regime is blitzed and the young upstart is armed with blueprints and more than enough imagination and guts.

With talent and a clear head (though she does down several glasses of single malt, 30-year-old Macallan scotch) and more than enough cunning, Eliza shakes the foundation of the empire, leaving Stu and all of his ilk hanging on for dear life.

Running Time: Two hours, including one intermission.

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What We’re Up Against plays through October 15, 2016 at The Keegan Theatre – 1742 Church Street, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 265-3767, or purchase them online.

LINK:
Review: ‘What We’re Up Against’ at The Keegan Theatre reviewed by John Stoltenberg.

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