By Bob Evans
Slice of life stories always allow the audience to peer into the dysfunctional point of some situation, as is the case of John and Leslie Are in the Copy Room Again. Life imitates art and art imitates life, in this production at Phospor Studio.
Mike Rice, the playwright, fashioned his main character, John, on situations he knows well. Rice a former reporter for the Kansas City Star understands what happens when something in society changes. In this case, newspapers went bust because people wanted their news free, online and 24-7. Rice said he faced the downsizing of the newspaper, the recession of the economy, and high unemployment—even among well educated, professionals.
He took his experience and crafted his first play, developed from a workshop with local playwright/actor/producer/director, Bryan Moses. With his awareness of the current situation in economy and the prospect that many others face the same challenges daily, he began crafting a play that shows the heart of people broken by bad turns of events, strained relations, job insecurity, personal needs, as well as changing views of success and failure.
The story centers on an office copy room where two unsuspecting and broken persons meet and immediately strike a blossoming friendship. Amongst gossip about layoffs and the prospect of losing a critical job, something platonic yet stable cause the spark that sends worlds careening out of control.
For his cast, Rice captured three consummate actors to deliver the characters and story. Pete Bakely never fails to give a realistic character. His “everyman” style is easy to accept and applaud. He’s funny, touching, sincere, and compassionate. Kelly Main embodies the nicest, strongest single mother, dealing with empty nest syndrome, a dying pet, and a drab life after losing a job that allowed for much more than the current pay-stubs allow. Main brings her character’s heart to her sleeve as a vulnerable and very likeable Leslie. The third character comes from Elizabeth Hillman who makes Gladys Kravitz look like a rank amateur. Her bold, red blouse announces her as angry and mean-spirited. Her later emerald green represents the icy-cold jealousy of Dr. Suess’ Grinch character. Her delivery of the embodiment of evil is fun to watch.
Overall, the drama comes off as a realistic look at modern society and social pressures. The actors carry this piece that contains the daily drama in so many lives. All characters want something that remains just out of reach. How they struggle against the odds brings the heart to this piece. Rice needs to be commended for this initial piece.