Broadway World Review: PATTERNS offers “growing insight”

Written by James Reach, adapted from the 1955 teleplay by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, PATTERNS, takes an insightful look at corporate politics, examining just how much it takes for an individual to crack in order to succeed financially. Directed with great skill and insight into human foibles and behavior by Jules Aaron (one of Los Angeles’ most honored directors, the recipient of over thirty awards for his work, directing over 250 stage and television productions), with a brilliant cast and design team at Theatre 40, the play depicts the emotional wreckage that corporate culture can inflict on individuals to bring them into the fold.

With a time-appropriate, multi-level set that divides secretaries from their executive supervisors, magnificently designed by Jeff G. Rack, and sound effects by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski that create the illusion of an elevator arriving and departing offstage as well as the iconic dropping of a coke bottle from a drink dispenser, the environment of the top executive wing of Ramsey & Company with its 3 top executive offices on the 40th floor of a New York City skyscraper comes to life, populated by the movers and shakers all jockeying to reach the top – or trying stay there.

The play opens with everyone from the secretaries to middle management staff discussing the new kid on the block set to arrive for his first day at work, unbelievably given the office right next to the top executive. Each of these supporting players add realism to the office environment, including the gossip-mongering that goes on and eventually gets reported to bosses by their loyal secretaries (uptight and play-by-the-rules Elain Rinehart and all-knowing loyal redhead Sharron Shayne). Even receptionist Martha Stevens (Cathy Diane Tomlin, who seems to always be onstage to answer the ever-present ringing phones) often joins in the discussion or simply listens to all the comments and notices who comes in and out without batting an eye. Certainly she has seen it all and knows when to keep her mouth shut in order to keep her job, unlike Miss Evans the mailroom assistant (Erica Larson) who soaks up every rumor like a sponge, ready to pass along anything to anyone.

That Bright Young Man from Ohio is Fred Staples (Daniel Kaemon) on his way up as a rising executive, thrilled at the chance to make it in the Big Apple. In addition to the great job, he has a beautiful wife (Savannah Schoenecker, costumed by Michele Young to resemble a young Jackie Kennedy) who truly loves him, even if she is a bit pushy to see he makes it to the top. Given this is the mid-50s, she knows her place to be the power behind the throne on which her husband sits. But given her strength, no doubt in today’s world she would be the top corporate executive at the company of her choice.

As Fred learns the ropes around the office, he finds a good friend in a senior executive at his new firm, Andy Sloane (James Schendel). It’s not too long, however, before Fred is brought to the chilling realization that he is being groomed to replace his buddy Andy, whom the firm’s president (Richard Holt Miller) wants removed from the company. The three actors portraying these hard-working and over-stressed executives are all perfectly cast in their roles, each displaying their individual personalities in private and their corporate selves during staff meetings. It is a world in which anyone who has participated will certainly feel comfortable in saying, “I know just how that feels” each time the boss decides to belittle or push another executive to the breaking point of his tolerance for the politics needed to reach the top.

How far will Fred go to further his ambitions? Can he possibly advance in the business world without losing sight of his morals and ideals? What compromises will he be willing to make? What will they do to his relationships with his wife and his best friend? Such is the corporate world PATTERNS examines with growing insight into just how difficult it is to hang onto your beliefs in the face of power and money.