In this town of powerful out-sized personalities of all persuasions, and the ever-increasing shift to delivery of entertainment through pixels and with headsets on, The Hub Theatre’s satisfying comic-drama production of The Typographer’s Dream is a God-send for those wanting a reminder of the sweet intimacy of thoughtful, small-scale, understated live theater.
Written by Adam Bock, The Typographer’s Dream is a quirky little thing that plays with us at first, introducing three 30-something professionals who are stand-ins for the rest of us, no matter what our job title. In this case the three are a geographer, a stenographer, and a typographer making presentations as to the meaning of their jobs and their impact on others.
It’s like that famous idea, always have a 30-second elevator presentation about your job and yourself at the ready. But in this case, things go comically and then quite dramatically array. After all, “am I more than just my job”? “If I hate my job, or my job just sucks, what does that say about me”?
Over time, the conversations become more inner directed as each of the three grapple with explaining themselves to the audience, to one another, and most critically, to themselves.
Under Director Matt Bassett’s smartly paced, sympathetic hand, and well-matched cast, we come to well know an ensemble that is well versed in using non-verbal communication and visual tics when they are not speaking the playwright’s dialogue, The Typographer’s Dream is a seductive little piece with a just-right 3-member ensemble cast who hook us; then spend 80 intermission free minutes reeling us in, one small step at a time, to reveal plenty of well-done sharp edges.
As interpreted by Katie Nigsch, Jenna Sokolowski, and Daniel Corey, the characters seem such rather normal people, at least at the start. They make The Typographer’s Dream a character study of the ignored, invisible ones, say in the DC world of power and the powerful; and before the invention of the selfie to give some meaning to one’s life. They can interrupt each other as they try to speak, some can be shy if not docile, others aggressive sucking the air out of the room, some have facial and body tics.
Katie Nigsh is Margaret, The Typographer. Over the course of the production, she changes and grows the most. From passive, diffident and often exasperated with pinched lips, to passionate, if not almost breathless explaining her love for fonts and words. In one precious piece of dialogue she is in rapture explain how text can shout or whisper based on the font used or if bolded or in italics. As the show begins to wrap up, she comes out of no-where to become a tigress with bared teeth and plenty of fireworks to set off.
Jenna Sokolowski is AnnaLise, the Geographer. She is at first, aggressive attempting and often succeeding in silencing the other two characters before they can say more than a word or two. She is sad that geography seems less important than it once was. After all, it is now just a part of “social studies, and what is that all about”? She is opinionated and verbose to a fault. She uses maps to explain how there is really no “the” truth; since borders and boundaries can be changed. “Do borders really mean anything”? Fear not, there is comeuppance coming.
Daniel Corey is Dave, The Stenographer. He is compulsive, fastidiously and so detailed-oriented in all he does. He has a passive-aggressive manner to a “T.” He wants to matter to himself and others, and considers that a job title change to the more profound and meaningful sounding “court reporter” rather than stenographer. He is also the only characters with some kind of long-term life outside of work relationship; he has a male partner at home. When he finally attempts to assert himself, well, you will have to see for yourself how the two women treat him and his physical reactions. Priceless as they say.
The set by Elizabeth Muller, lighting by Catherine Girardi, sound design by way of Patrick Calhoun are minimalist; really just three desks and three stools that are moved about the small theater space. Maria Vetsch’s costumes are like lines of dialogue in defining each of the characters. Corey wears conservative attire including a tie, nothing flashy. Nigsch is in a demure trim outfit, some colors, but again nothing to bring much attention to her. Sokolowski is wearing a vest and pants as if she is ready to go out into the wild and tramp about looking for borders and some super-fund sites.
Bock’s The Typographer’s Dream sets us up for thinking one thing at the start about each character, and then delivering much more than we may initially expect. It may be a production for those are foodie theater-goers enjoying a multi-course meal of small plates or those who rather enjoy sitting with a printed book in-hand letting the world fade away.
Bock raises questions without answers. But come on now, haven’t we all thought about our own job’s value at times? Be honest. I certainly have. But here is my pitch, The Typographer’s Dream is a finely-drawn, entertaining way to reflect upon matters of work and life without being overwhelmed or depressed.
The Typographer’s Dream is a wise way to reflect upon matters of work and life without being overwhelmed or persuaded. It can linger with you if you want it to. Yes, it may not be for everyone’s taste. But thanks to the Hub Theatre for continuing to be an incubator to present the rarely seen, and introducing the relatively unknown younger playwrights in our midst.
The Typographer’s Dream is a smart, artfully presented miniature portrait of everyday life of those who toil often namelessly. It is attractively modest. Its glitz is in its not just how the characters have been drawn, but more the way this particular ensemble of Corey, Nigsch, and Sokolowski have us care for their characters even if we may not like what they do or say; and for director Bassett’s sympathetic soft touch to make the character’s seem quite real
Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.
The Typographer’s Dream plays through May 3, 2015 at The Hub Theatre performing at the New School of Northern Virginia-9431 Silver King Court, in Fairfax, Virginia. For tickets, call (800) 494-8497, or purchase them online.