"Last night was just talk," speaks one of the characters, while his friend points a gun at a former co-worker in Gino DiIorio's powerful new play White Noise.
This is the story of the words and actions of two white men who lose their jobs in corporate downsizing. A black man, Nathaniel (in a congenial performance by Brockton Pierce), with less seniority at the firm, is retained. Convinced that this is the work of reverse discrimination brought on by the injustice of affirmative action, Ricky, in a deadly accurate portrayal by George Macaluso of a hot-blooded simplemind, seeks assistance from the White Men's Defense League, led by the wealthy and well-spoken white evangelist-of-the-white-man, James Cartwright, whose rhetoric was handsomely telecast by Joel Rooks. But it is the journey of Kim, in a warm and winning portrayal by Brendan Patrick Burke, whose struggle to find true justice--and a job--that is the central story.
Kim is a more level-headed, progressive thinker than Ricky and will not blame affirmative action. But when Kim discovers he was called in for an interview because they thought he was a woman--in a stunningly well-written scene with a calculating performance by the actress Passion playing the part of Ms. Curtis-he begins to question the value of his beliefs. This is all the more difficult for Kim, because his wife, Ellen, portrayed by Stephanie Martini (who is wonderful to watch, especially when she is discovering the joys of having a child), is a confirmed advocate of minorities. In the end, a showdown is staged between Nathaniel and Ricky and Kim. The final scene is edge-of-your-seat action and leads to a surprising, but thoroughly plausible ending.
While this play is not just talk, it is clear that its genesis is in ideas. Occasionally scenes felt like they were about every argument for and against affirmative action. The playwright was fortunate to have a strong director, Frank Licato, who took some of the most textbookish dialogue and kept it dramatic and engaging. Mr. Licato added some nice between-scene television clips and sound design, which added to the visceral aspect of the play and enhanced Lauren Kurki's beautiful stage setting: four playing areas differentiated by grey carpet and white marble linoleum floors emphasized the yin and yang nature of the black-and-white views being addressed. David Castaneda's pin-point-accurate lighting highlighted the grand and the simple, including wastepaper baskets, to great effect. Christina DeMarco's costumes supported the drama without drawing attention to themselves, although Ms. Curtis's standout outfit was perfect apparel for government middle management - colorfully just within the bounds of professionalism. The cast was uniformly strong.
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Copyright 1998 Jim Lopata