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'Cadillac' at the Bloomington Playwrights Project

Bill Jepsen's Cadillac at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is set in Shane Cinal's richly designed and appointed offices of the Lindy Motors Dealership. It's a lovely set with clocks that show the right time, a FAX machine that works, an impressive desk with a rolodex, a pen and pencil set, a cup with a commemorative baseball and a small American flag.

Gerard Pauwels plays Howard, Lindy Motors' Finance Manager. Although he's been a salesman for years. Now, his primary function is closing the deals for others. Overall the dealership is doing pretty well, but as he says, "Every month, you're back to zero."

There's Art, Frank Buczolich. Like Howard, he's very much of the old school. He's one to keep an active file and follow up repeat customers over the years. Art's motto is "It's who knows you, not who you know!" He's doing pretty well with solid monthly sales.

Then there's Robin, played by Kathleen Walker. She's working to be a salesman in Howard and Art's mold, but needs daily time away to balance the job, daycare and motherhood. Robin is acutely conscious that she's the only woman on the floor. She's on the edge of not making enough sales to be kept on.

The third member of the sales team is Gary, Brett Gloden. Gary is an arrogant young rebel who hates what he thinks is the sanctimony of the older salesmen. He has no time for calling a down payment, an ‘initial investment,' or the monthly bills, ‘installments.' His only concern is numbers. He's currently riding the tide of the new internet contacts and racking up record sales.

Cadillac begins and ends with a dream of one of Howard's oldest customer, Fred played by Thomas Thompson. Fred has worked the same job for forty-two years, he's put four children through parochial school and college and just paid off the mortgage on his house. He's ready for his dream car, a recent vintage Cadillac.

In between a lot happens in this richly detailed and imagined play. Bill Goveia and Mary Carol Reardon appear as a couple of customers in a scenario that touches on all the tensions of car buying in a traditional marriage. It gives Goveia, his head snapping back and forth from salesman to Finance Manager while Reardon taps out a tempo, one of the longest and funniest pauses that I've seen.

A can of worms opens as Gary taunts Howard into pushing him and then calls foul and brings up an earlier charge on Howard that he says involved pushing a secretary. Howard is threatened, Art tries to help and Robin is placed squarely in the middle. If the play has a weak point, it's that playwright Jepson hasn't worked out a basis for Robin's apparently hysterical reaction.

Cadillac is a fascinating inside look at a car dealership, the forces that drive it, the sales people the customer, the strategies of the business.

Cadillac is the maiden directing project for the Bloomington Playwrights Projects new Artistic Director Chad Rabinovitz. Saturday night's performance was a gala with a gathering that began at the John Waldron Arts Center and proceeded with a limousine ride up the street to the Playwrights Project's theatre on Ninth Street.

Following the play there was a proclamation from Mayor Mark Kruzan declaring January 30, 2010 as Bloomington Playwrights Project's Day. Though the Mayor had to be away, an Elvis impersonating stand-in presented his pre-recorded message. Then playwright Bill Jepsen was on hand for a talk back with the audience and actors.

The finale was the dousing of all the lights at the BPP. In a gesture toward conservation, the power is off for a week right through a candle lit Thursday night performance of Cadillac on February 4th.

Cadillac continues at the Bloomington Playwrights Project through February 27th.

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