By Julie Katz; Directed by Lexi Diamond
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.26.16
VENUE #4: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 8.19.16
Julie Katz in The Company Incorporated. Photo by Serena Morelli.
BOTTOM LINE: This humorous and compelling solo show takes a cynical look at life in a dehumanizing corporation.
Life in Corporate America can be a mind-numbing, soul-crushing experience, but hey, we all need to pay the bills, don’t we? This question is at hand in the wry and timely The Company Incorporated (which just finished a stint at the San Francisco Fringe Festival under the title Grey Matter). Writer and performer Julie Katz embodies multiple employees at a large corporation known simply as “The Company.” Some have slipped so far into their corporate-friendly brainwashed personas that they no longer seem human, whereas others are fascinated at glimpsing life beyond the limitations of their roles at the company.
The production opens with a corporate drone presenting a series of generic looking charts consisting of linked shapes and blue squares which are vaguely explained as charting factors to maximize profits. Katz grins as she offers a spot-on parody of the fake enthusiasm seen in such corporate presentations. Throughout the piece, Katz convincingly embodies the differing personas at the tech company, like the IT prodigy who speaks to the company interviewer condescendingly, complimenting them on their great questions and speaking of how the job is beneath their skill level. Another character, an endearing corporate lawyer, dreams of a creative life and is floored when he meets a painter at her art show. Later the scene is repeated from the perspective of the artist, who confesses that living a creative life means also working three other side jobs and struggling from paycheck to paycheck, showing how one often must choose between a creative pursuit and financial stability.
Peppered throughout the play is the company announcer who updates the audience about feuds over the placement of the artisanal hot chocolate machine, and the foreboding announcement of future layoffs. This announcer amusingly introduces herself by stating that her favorite core value is “feel the spirit” and that her "fun fact" is that she has never had soda. When she later announces that she has also been laid off, her palpable sadness shows how little of her identity exists outside of the corporate environment.
Katz proves herself to be both a gifted writer and performer as she creates a work that is humorous, insightful, and reflective of our current time. Katz is able to embody each of her well-developed characters so fully, both in terms of voice and mannerisms, that it is easy to forget this is a solo show. The struggles of her characters are both touching and laugh-out-loud funny. Her parody of generic, graph-heavy corporate presentations and vague, brainwashed-sounding corporate speak has the insight of someone who has spent time in both the tech industry and in corporate America.
As layoffs tear apart life at the company, some characters blossom and find, for the first time, a sense of self, whereas others live in a constant state of fear as they wait for their entire sense of identity to crumble to pieces. The Company Incorporated offers a compelling look at trying to maintain a sense of self when you're encouraged, even expected, to conform.
(The Company Incorporated plays at VENUE #4: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 26, 2016. The running time is 1 hour, no intermission. Performances are Sat 8/13 at 7:15; Tue 8/16 at 5:15; Sun 8/21 at 2:45; Tue 8/23 at 5; and Fri 8/26 at 9. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit thejuliekatz.com/the-show/.)
The Company Incorporated is written and performed by Julie Katz. Developed with David Ford. Directed by Lexi Diamond. Set Design is by Anna McGahey. Sound Design is by Michael Manziello.