The latest production at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is Jon Brooks’ "Twilight Zone" style play "The Button" in a production staged by Pittsburg based
director Jonathan Rest. Joe, Mathew Kirkham, is a feckless would-be-novelist living off the income of his office worker girl friend Kara, Amanda Scherle. Kara nags him into looking for work, and Joe calls the first ad in the paper.
Joe goes to see D.J. Glass, Lee Parker, for the strangest job interview that I’ve seen, heard about or imagined. D.J. Glass is a job interviewer who gives no description of the job and asks no real questions about the qualifications. He goes on at eloquent length about the benefits in the quirkiest, nonstop language of a man selling Florida swampland. Imagine a Gilbert Gottfried, too interesting to be irritating, and you’ve got a rough fix on D. J. Glass. He not only hires the Joe, but hires him with a bonus, paid in cash from a wad of bills from his pocket. It does seem eerily peculiar that D.J. whips out a pen knife and gives a Joe the slightest cut on the cheek, but what a lot of cash. Whenever the colorful D.J. Glass was on stage, and this was a good part of "The Button," things were hopping and happening.
Things seem to go swimmingly for Joe, each day he pushes a single button just once. D.J. Glass is full of praise and more and more money. He even hires a secretary, Emily Lowder Wotoen, as an additional perk. D.J. Glass is more than satisfied. The secretary is happy. Joes’ girl friend is so pleased that she quits her job and wants to come to work with Joe. Somehow Joe, is the odd man out. He’s suspicious about the job, he’s having nightmares about it. I won’t give away all of "The Button"’s secrets, but there are reports of a steadily growing number of missing people.
The problem with "The Button" is that it is a fairly good, stock science-fiction short story and a weak play. Neither the feckless would-be-novelist, his hard working girl friend, nor the nubile secretary have much dramatic place. They just don’t take up a great deal of dramatic space. The vaguely developed menace of just what pushing the button does isn’t presented in a convincing way. The show seems to be pushing toward the theme of a person’s responsibility to learn the consequences of their actions and that maintaining ignorance is not a moral option, but it’s feebly presented.
However, and this is a very large "however," playwright Brooks’s character of the mysterious executive, D.J. Glass, in the hands of actor Lee Parker and director Jonathan Rest is just incredible and great fun.
Jon Brooks’s new play "The Button" in a production directed by Jonathan Rest plays Thursdays through Saturdays ant eight and Sundays at two through June 27th.