A Typographer, a Geographer, and a Stenographer; perhaps the beginning of a new ‘guy walks into a bar’ style joke but in this case they are the three main focal points of the Iron Crow Theatre Company’s production of Adam Bock’s The Typographer’s Dream. Directed by Michele Minnick, this particular work uses language to explore the need for change between three seemingly unrelated characters. The setting is sparse – bordering on minimalist and the audience is never really brought into the darkness as these three characters embark on a journey of self discovery. Bock’s work begs the question, “What if people really were their jobs?” and sets about making this theoretical notion a reality through the uses of drama and humor poignantly extrapolated from the characteristics of their everyday lives.
The three actors that embody these roles bring perspective and insight to the deconstruction of being defined by one’s job. At first they appear as three normal people sitting at a panel discussion of some sort, but as the play progresses it is made more than apparent that they are living reflections of what they job expects from them.
The Stenographer (Steven J. Satta-Fleming) is an observer – his job is to observe and record the proceedings of what is said in court and translate these recordings into intelligible records. Satta-Fleming creates a detachment to his character, speaking only in second person, never referring to himself in the process of recollections or memories. And yet he personalizes these moments with little references that make his observations his. Much like his profession his character hides behind the mechanical workings of others – he lies to himself and others about the much deeper issues of his life. We see a very level performance from Satta-Fleming, his enthusiasm neither hidden nor exposed – properly balanced in a mildly quirky sort of way. He expresses a moment of passion with glee rivaling his co-stars when explaining the stenograph machine.
The Geographer (Jenny Male) is more exploratory. Male’s character conquers the map of verbosity in this play. She has literal ‘diarrhea of the mouth’ and is constantly exploding with vocalizations of her passion over maps and country borderlines. Male maintains a constant high-strung energy that borders on psychotic glee as she eagerly shares with the audience everything she knows and feels in regards to the subject. Her eyes are electric bordering on maniacal at times when she gets caught up in various excitements, like choke-points or country colors on maps. Male is constantly in motion, engaging her whole body when she speaks – her head, shoulders, hands, feet – some part of her continuously moving as if her exuberance will not allow her to sit still.
The Typographer (Sarah Ford Gorman) is the opposite of both of these characters. While not deeply observational or explanatory like the Stenographer she does possess the need to explain herself. And while the character is not bursting with ludicrous enthusiasm like the Geographer, she does have a growing emotional shift that comes bursting out near the end of the play. Gorman has a trepidation about her presentation of the character’s profession. Her words are frightened, shy and often awkward when they leave her mouth. She fidgets nervously and lets her eyes, much like the words of her profession, do the speaking.
Language is ephemeral – once spoken it can simply disappear like a wisp of wind blowing through the sky. And it is the cradle of small elements in the art of typography that capture the play of feeling, the impact of thought, the occurrence of emotion in language on the page. Gorman’s character realizes this and translates it best to real life. While the characters shift and evolve, coming to terms with the fact that their lives, as defined by their jobs, are perhaps without meaning or not as they seem to be this notion of honest existence is revisited many times throughout the show.
When the three interact there is a fluid harmony that occurs – the words – be them shouted during intense moments of conflict – or whispered during moments of confession— or casually exchanged; they become the body and driving force of the play. Gorman, Male, and Satta-Fleming make the perfect trio to transport this notion from its captured essence on the page to lasting eternity in the eyes of the viewer.
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
The Typographer’s Dream plays through June 16, 2012 at Iron Crow Theatre Company – Johns Hopkins University’s Swirnow Theatre – at the corner of Charles Street and 33rd Street in Charles Village, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets may be purchased at the door before the show or online.