What We’re Up Against By Theresa Rebeck Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt @ WP Theater through Nov. 26, 2017
By: Lauren Yarger
In the workplace, employees have to watch out for sexual harassment. A simple phrase might be taken the wrong way. The twist here, is that the employee lamenting the state of things is a male — and the boss — who says men having to deal with women in the office is just part of What We’re Up Against in this all-too-timely, darkly humorous play from Theresa Rebeck at WP Theater (formerly the Women’s Project.)
It’s 1992 and Stu (Damian Young) bemoans the situation at the architectural firm he runs to co-worker Ben (Jim Parrack of TV’s “True Blood”). New-hire Eliza (Krysta Rodriguez) complained about never getting a chance to show her architectural skills. All of the guys in the office, especially Weber (Skylar Austin from the “Perfect Pitch” films), get tapped all the time while Eliza gets stuck in a “broom closet” office. She feels Stu just sees her as token woman, and not as the qualified worker the company’s owner, David, did when he hired her. The guys speculate about the relationship between Eliza and David and joke about whether she slept with him to get the job.
Eliza thinks she has a kindred spirit in Janice (Marg Helgenberger), the only other women in the firm, but finds that she’s just like Weber, willing to take credit for her ideas to get ahead.
Scenic Designer Narelle Sissons and Costume Designer Tilly Grimes put us in the 1990s, but the office dynamics clearly could be 2017. Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt focuses attention to keep the hour and 45 minutes of dialogue (with an intermission) brisk.
Rodriguez gives Eliza some depth and sometimes we’re not sure just how innocent she is in the scheme of things. Is she sleeping with David? Is she setting up others to fail? The questions are typical of those asked by those defending themselves against charges of sexual bias and who point to women who stand up for themselves as having attitude problems, so the audience can understand the viewpoints of the coworkers as well as Eliza. It would be interesting to have Rebeck pen a sequel in 2017 to see how much, if anything has changed for the characters.
What We’re Up Against ***
runs through Nov. 26 at WP Theater, 2162 Broadway at 76th Street. Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm; Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. There is no performance on Thursday, Nov. 23. A 7 pm performance has been added on Sunday, Nov. 26. Tickets are $39-$89: wptheater.org; 212-765-1706.
Additional credits: Lighting Design: Grant Yeager; Sound Design: M.L. Dogg