The Unbound Theatre
By JEAN-CLAUDE GRUMBERG
American version by Daniel A. Stein with Sara O’Connor
Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal St., NYC, February 17 – March 12, 2005
Directed by MONI YAKIM
Stage Manager MAGGIE BELL
Production Designer SHANA ALBERY
Lighting Designer STEPHEN ARNOLD
Press Representative JIM BALDASSARE
Simone – Anna Guttormsgaard
Helene – Jody Hegarty
Gisele – Carla Matero
Marie – Kristen Cerelli
Mme. Laurence – Jill Van Note
Mimi – Emily Gunyou
Leon – Kevin Orton
First Presser – John Grimball
Jean – Rick Gifford
Max – Charles E. Gerber
Boy – Max Damaschek
Taking my place amongst the tight seating at Manhattan Theatre Source, having just battled the frigid temperature outside, I thought to myself, this better be worth it. It was. At nearly three hours, and with nothing but the intimate stage to draw my attention, The Unbound Theatre’s production of THE WORKROOM kept me engrossed. The time flew by, but not frivolously.
For a change, I felt like I was getting to know the characters onstage in a particularly intimate way, though I only caught glimpses of them over the years at work in a sewing room, THE WORKROOM, in post World War II Paris (1945 to 1952). My underlying captivation had to do with the strong script by Jean-Claude Grumberg, but my ultimate enjoyment of the performance was down to the impressive ensemble acting, paced direction, and experience-enhancing design package.
At the center of this work is a woman named Simone. Her husband was taken during the war, and she will spend years trying to uncover his fate. She meets a relatively friendly if internally competitive group when she joins the ladies of THE WORKROOM, but even these seemingly benign characters take note that Simone, like their employers, is another one of "them." She is a Jew. It is this observation of otherness that sets the tone, adding to the unspoken message of the play. The reminders of what has come before are everywhere.
THE WORKROOM is a play about the aftermath of war. It is a play about the survivors, and one of hope, truth and the enduring repercussions of hatred and immeasurable loss. It is not about happily ever after, but about getting by. I found this to be powerful theater. I think the intimate performance space, though cramped, only added to the ambience.
- Kessa De Santis -