Monday, December 2, 2013

Doug Is a D-Bag, Cleveland Public Theatre

Face it, we’re now all one click away from doom—personal or professional—since our misdirected texts or elegantly composed crotch shots can be sent worldwide in a nanosecond.

This is the modern technological rat’s nest that is addressed in Doug Is a D-Bag now at Cleveland Public Theatre. Written and directed by Renee Schilling, it’s basically a knock-off of the TV show The Office with one huge innovative twist: audience members are encouraged to leave their smart phones on and use the texting function during the show.

This becomes immediately apparent when the house lights go down and many faces in the audience are lit up by their screens as phone chirps and dings float in the air. It’s kind of like being in an electronic meadow at dusk.

Set in the office of Re-Imaginate, Inc., a human resources management firm, the play tracks the fraught relationship between co-workers Doug (a nicely underplayed Matt O’Shea) and Lorie (Emily Pucell, turning a thin character sketch into a sympathetic person). Corporate buzzwords and phrases pile up as a gaggle of other workers, as well as the firm’s founder and his wife, try to resolve their own HR storms.

Accident-prone Steven (Davis Aguila) and passionate Rose (Katelyn Cornelius) are bumping uglies in the stock room while Wallace (Michael Prosen doing a respectable Dwight Schrute send-up) irritates everyone. It’s all overseen by office manager Richard (John Busser), who always has his rules and uplifting success-poster aphorisms to fall back on.

Throw in the company founder Martins (an amusing, new age pretentious Doug Kusak) and his dominatrix-clad wife Monica (smoldering Carrie Williams), along with a very self-aware omniscient narrator (Peter J. Roth), and you have a lot of characters to handle in a 75-minute show.

Taken as an experiment, Doug seems like a mixed bag. It certainly explores the idea of audience participation via smart phone. And there are some very clever moments in Schilling’s script, amid some more predictable palaver.

But it’s not clear how the audience texts impact the show, other than distracting the texters themselves from the action on stage. And while the characters are often preoccupied with their texts, it’s hard to see how that functions as a new dramatic tool of any lasting consequence.

But it’s all interesting enough to justify further exploration. Let’s text!

Doug Is a D-Bag
Through December 14 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727

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