Terri Wagener’s Reva Shiner Award winning play "Work" at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is warmly human account of a fascinatingly rich clash between opposites.
"Work" is a dramatic duet with Breshaun Joyner delivering a masterfully evolving performance as Roses, a poor but proud African American widow. She’s partnered by Jeff Craft as Ed, a self involved oil company executive who arrives on a condolence call with a check in memory of Roses husband who died in an oil rig accident.
"Work" is set in 1968 and as Ed and Roses talk while she irons the clothes of white families, much of their conversation becomes footnotes to the events of the time. There is a contentious election, an unpopular foreign war, deep divisions between ethnic groups and the ever present divide between the haves and the have nots. It’s been deeply researched and thought and the echoes into our own time are frequent. Some are touching, some chilling and some downright funny.
Director James Mumford has treated the drama like a piece of chamber music with great attention to pace, to give and take and to the rhythm. He’s confident enough in Terri Wagener’s work to effectively vary the back and forth of the conversation with straight solo sections, highlighted with a separation in space and lighting.
"Work" could easily have been a lampoon, a cartoon of the fat Republican boss and the canny African American woman, but it isn’t. The show does take more than a few shots at Ed, the executive and the white southern culture, but it’s doesn’t let Roses off without some criticism as well. Things do occasionally slow down and even drag a bit, but then there is more depth, complexity and genuine surprises from both these characters.
Terri Wagener’s "Work" at the Bloomington Playwrights Project continues with performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at eight and Sundays at two through May 24th.
You can find an interview with Terri Wagener on our Arts Interviews podcast page .