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The Daily Californian, August 3, 2006


A Sharp-Witted Celebration of the Mundane

-- By Stephanie Heise

The Typographer's Dream" explores the working lives of a typographer, a geographer, and a stenographer in the form of a panel discussion at a conference, during which the panelists talk about how their occupations work and why they matter. This may sound like a boring premise, but "The Typographer's Dream" brilliantly manages to defy the misconception that great theater can only draw from extraordinary experiences, and elevates the nine-to-five lives of three everyday heroes into an excitingly original and thought-provoking human comedy.

Tellingly, the houselights are not dimmed during the performance, and the neurotic preoccupations of the panelists implicate the spectators as well. This cheekily suggests that every one of us could find ourselves lodged behind a conference table, sipping filtered water, and revealing that the grand dramas and passions of our lives are the same details that preoccupy millions of other working stiffs.

Playwright Adam Bock's play is well-staged and convincingly acted, but it's the play's uniqueness that makes it truly special. Sure, there are the familiar themes of love, self-realization, substance abuse and so forth, but how many plays really include lengthy monologues about designing typesets for the letter "A"?

And never was a panel more idiosyncratically entertaining. The typographer, endearingly played by Aimee Guillot, is a bashful, bike-riding, bandana-sporting idealist who obsesses over revealing textual truths through font sizes. More often than not, her efforts to express how exactly she feels about sans serif script are interrupted by the geographer, portrayed by the hillarious Jamie Jones, who indulges in a nearly physical love affair with maps. Michael Shipley's sheepishly enigmatic stenographer is proud to go by the more glamorous job title of court reporter, and still revels in the fact that he became a high school celebrity for his ambidextrous, rhythmical typing skills.

At first, "The Typographer's Dream" seems to echo every recent college graduate's worst nightmare: The characters are defined not by who they are, but by what they do. They are their jobs. But halfway through the play the mood shifts, the characters' body language relaxes, and we are suddenly allowed short glimpses into their private lives. The typographer, the geographer, and the stenographer become Margaret, Annalise, and Dave. Unfortunately, although this implies that there is a life beyond the desk, this life offers little relaxation from the deterministic implications of the characters' career choices, and they struggle to define their non-professional identities.

The play is as tightly scripted as an episode of "Arrested Development," and it is ceaselessly fascinating to see how many revelatory interrelations exist between the three occupations and the individuals who represent them. At times, the play's language veers a bit too far into the realm of corny poetics, but generally its unwavering attention to minute details highlights the fact that even the most repetitive daily acts contain beauty if we look hard enough.

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