The Parlour (2015)
By Tyler Plosia
On the opening night of The Parlour, the play came with a disclaimer. The performance was presented as unfinished, still in-progress: A workshop production. According to playwright Xavier Galva, scenes had been cut in rehearsal the same day as the inaugural show.
Lucky for the audience, the production does not feel incomplete. This is a play heavily indebted to its choreography, and an under-rehearsed performance would be far too evident. The piece does not incorporate dance, per se; instead, there is synchronized movement (credit to Assistant Director Amanda Black) at the beginnings of most scenes.
The Parlour is set in an exclusive restaurant of the same name, and it benefits by failing to focus on a single element of the establishment. It is truly an ensemble piece, not only in that stage time is shared amongst the workers, but also in that the various occupations within a professional kitchen are investigated.
When the scenes open with orchestrated movements – as they often do – each employee might do something different. A dishwasher might dry his pots mechanically and manically; the head chef might produce plate after plate with rapid-fire precision. Independently, they appear as chaotic cogs, alienated both from one another and from the final product they proffer. But together, they compose a working kitchen (though it works more successfully at times than at others).
The story is tight, and while it can feel too predictably steady, it arrives at its heightened but uncontrived conclusion at the right moment. At times, the dialogue can feel a bit jumbled, as if it is overlapping unintentionally instead of naturalistically (and this could be a result of the still-evolving nature of the production).
The actors succeed in pulling the weight of an occasionally tricky piece. Lizzie Stewart moves easily and believably as Yasmin, the hostess who is aloof or self-involved, depending on which co-worker you ask. Native Glaswegian John Anthony Gorman is a great villain as Dylan, the deceitful and consistently unlikeable server. An important role to keep interesting, and maybe the most difficult. And Alexander Lambie from the Bronx plays Mamadoue from Uganda, a dishwasher who is often the victim of circumstance or misunderstanding. Every time Lambie delivers a line, the audience prepares to listen or laugh in empathy.
Daniela V. Hart’s directing allows a work-in-progress to be received like it is complete – if chaotic. The structural focus of Galva’s script eases this fulfillment. But the actors are the real lure here: Hart and Galva create a fertile landscape for the performers to inhabit in The Parlour, and the actors succeed because they take advantage in such varied ways.