Walking into the small Studio/Stage Theater I was primed to enjoy Susan Josephs’ play The Interview by the ingenuity and composition of set designer Vincent Richards. The Interview is set in the near future when the government has passed laws requiring women to implant contraceptive rods in their arms. Anyone wanting to create a family must take rigorous steps that culminate in a final interview (if you’re lucky enough to get to that phase) to obtain permission to have a child.
I went to the play assuming the premise questioned how today anyone can assume responsibility for the life of a child--and yet we are required to fill out an application to adopt a pet or pass a test to drive a vehicle. My assumption was inaccurate. The premise does not question the qualifications of parents, but rather, examines the extent to which Big Brother has infiltrated the lives of Americans. In the play's dystopian society, once prospective parents are granted permission to procreate, they must adhere to government-run regulations, administered by surprise visits such as how to put your child to sleep (cry-it-out method), what to feed your child (junk food is prohibited) and how to discipline your child (time-outs). Infractions can lead to removing the child from home.
When we meet Jenna and Steven, played by Jacqueline King and Marshall McCabe respectively, they are in the office of the U.S. Department of Parenting and Child Welfare. Jenna is ambivalent. Steven is eager. Despite the high emotional stakes, Marshall McCabe injects his own variety of humor with superb timing and delivery, which the play has more opportunities for as it evolves during its run. The conflict arises when the interviewer, Veronica, played by the talented Melissa Sullivan, turns out to be part of Steven’s furtive past. As the action unfolds, with stellar pacing at the hand of director Diana Wyenn, the play becomes less about its premise and more about the complicated relationships between the characters. Wyenn also handles the play's transitions and scene changes with a skilled choreographer’s touch.
Acting on self-centered motivation, each character is ingeniously neither sanctified nor vilified. They are all splendidly drawn human beings trying to be happy, which says a lot about American society. The pursuit of happiness often comes at the expense of others. Josephs’ knack for dialogue is both authentic and fresh, allowing the viewer to organically come to know each character throughout the play. There is no clear antagonist—a noteworthy writing achievement. Although the script could use some trimming, Josephs’ characterizations carry the play to a satisfying conclusion.
This writer would have liked the play to flesh out the societal issues it raises: a woman's rights over her body, single motherhood by choice, the intriguing “off the grid” communities, and the social strata created by those people deemed acceptable to parent as opposed to those who are not. Still, the character-driven play effortlessly propels you into the lives of it characters. With its intriguing premise and solid acting chops, <i>The Interview </i>elegantly introduces the work of Susan Josephs to Los Angeles audiences.
The Interview, October 4-27 @ Studio Stage
520 N Western Ave, Los Angeles CA 90004
Purchase tickets here.