Stage Raw Review: PATTERNS is “staged grippingly and acted naturally”

Tucked away in a parking garage in a high school in Beverly Hills, Theatre 40 is celebrating its 50th season with the play Patterns, which is also having an anniversary, having been produced in its original incarnation 60 years ago.

Everyone at the office is talking about a mysterious new addition to Ramsey & Company. The secretaries are aflutter with gossip, and even the men who have worked there for many years want to know more about the man that’s moving into a suspiciously appointed office.

Fred Staples (Daniel Kaemon) is younger than anyone expects. But not to be underestimated, it is clear from his very first day that not only is he incredibly charismatic, but has a slew of new ideas that might be just what the place needs.

Mr. Ramsey (Richard Hoyt Miller) is pleased with himself for making such a good judgement by hiring young Fred, and starts to groom him for bigger and better things. Meanwhile, Ramsey sets his sights on company veteran Andy Sloane (James Schendel), who has been with Ramsey & Company a whopping twenty-four years. Andy becomes the target of constant humiliation as Mr. Ramsey decides that old acquaintance be forgot, so he can make room for the new.

Patterns was originally produced as an hour-long television drama in 1955. The script was written by famous Twilight Zone personality Rod Serling. The version being presented by Theatre 40 is a play adapted by James Reach, which is also a bit more lengthy than the original.

Jeff G. Rack has designed a beautiful set that immediately submerges us into a 1950s business office. Michèle Young’s costumes with Judi Lewin’s wigs assist the vintage mood, as cigarette smoke nonchalantly billows from the mouths of busy executives.

Being 60 years old, Patterns is at times difficult to bear. Act 1 alone is almost exclusively secretarial jargon and procedure. So I couldn’t really understand what the company does or what exactly Fred Staples or Andy Sloane’s positions are. I just know that they’re important.

Despite the challenges the script poses, director Jules Aaron holds our interest with a production staged grippingly and acted naturally.

Getting through the dense corporate exchanges brings us to a rather preachy ending. But the theme is a still a timely one, as what the play is truly about is what we give up in order to make a living and advance within our jobs. Sometimes it is our very soul. Therefore, this production is lovely chance to consider the merits of professional pragmatism vs. a human sentimentality, and to examine what our own trajectory is. Is it possible to break from the pattern of transformation from an idealistic Fred Staples to the pathetic Andy Sloane as our years have slipped right by us? A cynical Serling and Reach suggest that maybe it’s not.