“Gloria” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – September 30, 2023


Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

For its 22nd season opener, Stray Cat Theatre presents a stellar production of the Arizona premiere of “Gloria,” an interesting, unique, and timely play.  Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins creates a terrifying scenario.  He ends the first act with a horrific and unexpected occurrence that the playwright then dissects the ramifications of what transpired and its character impacts.

The play centers on youngish career persons as it captures their mindsets and how the plot traumatizes them.  “Gloria” is a very disturbing piece based on contemporary issues but it is a sad statement about the often-blind acceptance of this generation.

We are in a New York City cultural magazine office where the staff, some veterans, some newbies, and an impressible intern are editing stories as they banter among themselves about the magazine, its staffers, and sometimes serious but occasionally silly reactions to situations journalists face.

As directed by Dolores E. Mendoza the play moves swiftly but dialogue is occasionally spewed so quickly that words are not understandable.  The six-person ensemble play multiple roles as events impact various participants.  Kiss-up writer Dean goes out of his way to endear himself to stylish but superficial editor Nan earning him the consternation of fellow writers Kendra and Ani.  Another editor, Lorin, wants nothing to upset his work and he doesn’t like writers chatting about non-work-related things.  Miles is a thoughtful intern who isn’t quite as naïve as he appears initially. Gloria is a mousy writer who emerges as the most multi-dimensional character.  The secondary characters provide additional facets as the plot twists and turns.

Johnny Kalita plays Dean with throbbing sincerity as he struggles to grasp what has happened and how it affects him.  Willa Eigo plays the opinionated Kendra and, while capturing the character’s intensity, her dialogue is often unintelligible. Sabrina Harding is solid as Ani, the blandest writer.  Jonathan Hernandez is appropriately strident as Lorin while Everett Pervall is the stalwart Miles who still has a glimmer of hope as he begins his internship with this jaded staff.

The office set works well but the classical music background seems an odd choice for this magazine’s environment.

“Gloria’s” opening night had an impressively age-diverse near sell-out audience who laughed raucously at the play’s comic moments but grew quiet and reflective as the play painted its bleak generational picture.  A well-deserved standing ovation during the curtain call seemed justifiably appropriate. “Gloria” continues through October 14.  To order tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: A