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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 10, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 19
ArtsWest's Office Hour a powerful commentary on gun violence in contemporary America
Arts & Entertainment
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ArtsWest's Office Hour a powerful commentary on gun violence in contemporary America

by Paul Torres - SGN A&E Writer

ARTSWEST
OFFICE HOUR
May 2-26


ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery's brave production of Office Hour stands as a testament to what intimate theater can be. It moves you and even scares you a bit. This biting play aims its crosshairs right at contemporary society and our frenzied culture. Playwright Julia Cho takes aim at violence in the academic setting through the views of an overwhelmed academic staff dealing with a seemingly unstable and volatile student.

A writing professor, Gina, portrayed marvelously by Naho Shioya, and her two colleagues, Genevieve and David, played by Varinique Davis and Nik Doner, respectively, are dealing with a troubled student, Dennis, exceptionally played by Christian Quinto. He writes graphically disturbing stories that scare his fellow students to a degree that they are too uncomfortable to attend class with him. That is the set-up for this story, produced in one act.

It continues with Dennis meeting with his professor and advisor Gina. What follows are a series of scenarios reflecting their interactions regarding his writing, his life, and even about the professor herself. The scenes are played out again and again with some troubling and violent actions. This whole story is a trigger warning ramped up and executed somewhat tenderly. The writing is excellent.

Talented director Mathew Wright helms Office Hour with a keen confidence that lets the story play out from Cho's elegant writing and the sheer talent of the actors. Wright's remarkable aptitude for delivering top-notch and enthralling productions is on full display here. The acting is as honest and forthright as I have seen.

Office Hour is a reflective modern portrait of a gun-crazed America, its indifferent ignorance toward violence, and its incapacity to honestly and intelligently deal with the root causes of those with mental health issues. This production is frightening, it's tense, it's even PTSD-inducing, but it filters this all through a balletic grace of what/if scenarios which makes it appropriately safe and palatable for an audience. It has to, because to deal with the true naked awfulness would be too shocking and dreadful, that mining any meaning from it would be a bit unbearable. Cho's writing finesses all the terribleness and offers something we can take home, digest, and reflect on what we can do to make changes about these urgent issues of the day. If you come away with at least this, then that is the true gift of art like Office Hour.

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ArtsWest's Office Hour a powerful commentary on gun violence in contemporary America
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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