The Gronholm Method/written by Jordi Galceran Ferrer/translated into English (from Spanish) by Anne Garcia-Romero & Mark St. Germain/directed by BT McNicholl/Falcon Theatre/through September 30
Food for thought: when was the corporate world ever lauded for its humanitarianism? Yes, charity may flow to the outside world, but within its tight-fisted ranks? As far back as I can remember, its cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, ruthless attitude and behavior have kept me far away from its portals. So, corporate America as depicted in Jordi Galceran Ferrer's The Gronholm Method, receiving its American premiere at the Falcon Theatre, is true to form. It's what we expect to see. Greedy executives will do just about anything to advance or secure a position. Now on the Falcon stage with a vibrant cast and skillful direction from BT McNicholl, The Gronholm Method wins over its audience not with its message, but rather with its grand theatricality.
When was the last time you can truthfully say you experienced a play whose character actions shifted dynamically every few minutes, keeping you sharply tuned in and putting you on The Edge of your seat with its bagful of surprises? Now, be honest! I'm sure it's been a while. Well, at The Gronholm Method, it's like being at a a party where the games keep changing. At the very top plotwise, four people vie for a corporate position... or is it less than four? One we are informed is in Human Resources and the other three are real candidates. It is up to these three to determine who already works for the company... and they only have ten minutes to reach a decision. Surprisingly, they do, but this is only the beginning. Let the games begin! In a form of charade, next they each must don a hat - clown, cowboy, bishop, politician - and act out why that particular person should be allowed to use the one parachute accessible on a doomed aircraft. The 'improvs' are hilarious, but the stakes of the contest get increasingly higher; in this contest, almost impossible to achieve. Frank (Jonathan Cake), Rick (Stephen Spinella), Carl (Graham Hamilton) and Melanie (Lesli Margherita) are the foursome who participate in victimizing each other... and the entire audience with their stories, which for the most part are vicious lies. Is anyone telling the truth? We are caught spellbound in Ferrar's clever clutches until the very end of the 90-minute one-act, but the fun never lets up...even at the end.
This type of writing with its unfathomable transitions and divergent rhythms keeps actors on their toes, and this ensemble are most assuredly up to it. Cake as Frank, the egomaniacal forerunner, is despicably and deliciously obnoxious, and Spinella, delightfully nerdy and grating as Rick. Hamilton plays Carl with a straight forward sincerity which is surpassed only by his wickedly brazen demeanor as transgender Carla. This plot angle is one of the evening's high points. Another is the story conveyed by Melanie, in a brilliant nonsinging turn by Lesli Margherita. Her emotional instrument works wondrously as the supposedly ball-busting feminist contender, who places the competition ahead of her dying mother. Director McNicholl keeps the action flowing smoothly and the pacing brisk throughout. Anne Garcia-Romero's and Mark St. Germain's translation plays so typically American, one would never suspect that English was the play's second language. Brian Webb's scenic design and Jennifer Schriever's lighting replicate the ultra-bright sterility of a waiting room to the letter, and Ann Closs-Farley's costumes match each character to perfection.
Go to The Gronholm Method and be prepared for the unexpected! You will laugh, you may cry; you may not see anything new about the corporate structure but the innovative, unpredictable form of the play is bound to delight, excite and keep you talking long after the curtain comes down.