Imagine this: an empty office space in Lower Manhattan transforms into a portal to a historic New York City and revisits a father’s lost legacy. Doubt, self-loathing and a love for doughnuts define the narrator’s attempt at self-validation as he takes the audience through the story of his love life and family history while trying to live up to the standards set by his dad within his company.
This was the context for “This is My Office” written by Andy Bragen and performed by Andy Grotelueschen in Gannett Theater this past Thursday evening in a one night Bates premier of the one-man show. These two guest artists from New York City came to Bates for two days, visiting theater classes and rehearsing the piece so eloquently performed.
Although there was only one actor, the hour-long play kept my attention the entire time. The lights were on; the actor sat at a desk as he read from a script. At first, I thought this casual setting would yield slight unprofessionalism. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Although I found it slightly off-putting to be reading from the script the whole time, the acting was not compromised. The humor was evident and delivered effectively, but wasn’t pushy. His voice projection was at a comfortable level as he was able to address members of the audience directly and humorously. It would have been nice to see more movement around stage, as he didn’t leave his spot behind the desk, but that wildly contributed to the confinement of an office. Overall, the ambiance allowed me to accept his presence on stage and follow him through the emotional (and lonely) journey of the narration of his life as it pertains to the enclosed spaces of the office.
Throughout the play, we are introduced to the character’s literal office spaces, including his own office, the conference room, the stock room (his favorite – for whatever reason) and his father’s office, as he narrates pieces of his life in each one. However, this had me question what these spaces actually mean. Do the different purposes of each room represent different aspects of the character’s life, or (more generally speaking) our own lives? As he repeats, “this is my office,” I can only think that the office is a metaphor for life and how personal history, failures and triumphs shape our being.
As someone who clearly has low ambition, this character describes to us his love for doughnuts, his lack of productivity in the work place and the caffeine he consumes in hopes of accomplishing something, his love life, and what it is like to follow his father’s footsteps. However, the end of the play is what brings everything together and validates what he has been searching for this entire time: his father’s approval and pride. He continuously alludes to how he has been expected to take over the company for his dad when he died and discusses the affairs his father had by replaying a recording between himself and his father’s old secretary, voiced by Allie Freed ’16.
We are later led into an illustration of a fire that happened in the office because of marijuana gone wrong. The character talks through the panic he experiences as he bakes (no pun intended) in the flames of the office fire waiting for the firefighters to find him and get him in trouble. As soon as he hears them coming up the elevator and expects to be jailed, his dead father appears. This is when the struggle of the play is resolved. He discovers that he father was always there for him and would never let him fall.
We discover that the play explores this internal struggle many of us suffer from. We yearn for validation, especially when it comes from our superiors and parents. We see that this man’s life changes when his father visits him in a vision and the office becomes a space for conflict resolution – an ordinary day in human life.