A World Premiere.
By Warren Hoffman.
Directed by Derek Bertelsen.
Produced by AstonRep Theatre Company.
Ar Raven Theatre’s West stage. Chicago.
Promising new work has a curious ending but looks at hypocrisy in today’s theatre.
AstonRep has found a promising new play in Warren Hoffman’s The Black Slot. This inside the theatre eorld ‘s actual workings finds an Equity regional theatre company (Madison Rep?) as its dramaturg Beth (Brittany Stock) fresh out of Yale reading play submission all day in search of “the one” that will please Pam (Amy Kasper) the artistic director. Amy has one slot to fill for the new season.
Beth is championing a new work my an unknown African-American playwright, Tim. This play is far superior to any she has read in two years. But Pam rejects it for several reasons. New unknown playwrights don’t sell in regional theatre. The company has already scheduled an August Wilson play (Fences) in the ‘black slot.’ Pam believes that her audience of older white folks will not tolerate two ‘black plays’ in one season.
Beth is totally frustrated with Pam’s hypocrisy. But Pam’s belief that the struggling finances forces the company to play it ‘safe’ by filling the last slot with an Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams chestnut.
Beth and Tim date as Tim’s charm is equal to his writing ability. Tim suggests that he and Beth pull a scam on Pam to espose her hypocrisy and racism.
Tim tells Beth that when he was an intern to August Wilson just before his death, Wilson gave Tim notes and fragments from a possible new idea Wilson had for a new work. These two concoct a full play based on the notes Tim saved from August Wilson. With Tim writing the script and Beth adding context and one monologue, a ‘lost’ August Wilson play was found and submitted by Beth to Pam.
Well, as a world premiers by August Wilson and an approval by Clifford (Linsey Falls), the executor of Wilson’s estate, Pam is all hyped to produce the new work with a big name director and star actors in that fourth slot. Beth reminds Tim that just before opening night, they were to tell everyone about the hoax. But things quickly get out of hand as events skewer the revelation. Tim sees his career going places as he is acknowledged as the editor and polisher of Wilson’s unfinished play. His own play is now being considered by folks who previously rejected it. Beth feels guilt for her part in the hoax and now questions Tim’s sincerity and love for her. Was she being used by him?
While The Black Slot has a smart premise, problems stretch credulity as the plot unwinds. Further development of Tim and Beth’s relationship and the ending seems unfinished. But the satire of how regional theatres operate and their beliefs systems as to what and why their core audiences want to see on stage hit home for me.
This work sure has possibilities and with some re-writes, it sure could be terrific. As now presented, it sure has many smart moments. Justin Wade Wilson, as Tim and Amy Kasper, as Pam were particularly effective. The Black Slot is worth a look.
At Raven Theatre’s West Stage, 8157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call 773-828-9129, www.astonrep.com, tickets $25 – $15 seniors/students, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 2hours with an intermission, through October2, 2017.