Malina walks into Adam's law office in hopes of filing a suit against Ira Slatsky, the head honcho of The Standard, after experiencing two years of empty promises, emotional manipulation, and sexual misconduct gone to the extreme. Through a series of active flashbacks chronicling the events in question, Adam must decide if it's worth taking on the corporate mammoth and at what cost. Unseamly is an action-packed battle of morality that showcases the consequences of temptation. Safdie’s he-said, she-said drama is magical. Just when you think you have it all figured out, he hurls a curveball that makes you suspect the truth and validity of the action presented by the characters. What Safdie does well is allowing Malina’s story to take precedence but having Ira’s recitation interject in a manner that keeps you guessing. Safdie’s subject is ambitious and likely to trigger emotions. But that’s what makes Unseamly so exciting. Safdie isn’t afraid to bring the story to the extreme in order for Malina’s tale to resonate. Safdie shows and tells the circumstances that Ira forced Malina in without fear. It allows the facts to line up for both Adam and the audience. There are clear objectives and desires in each of Safdie’s characters. They will fight to get what it best for them, even if it means manipulating the truth. By having three flawed characters, the action is even more enticing because you don’t know what they will do next. The subject of a man giving lacy lingerie, vibrators, and promised job growth may sound menial but watching a young woman decay just to keep her life afloat is the power that Safdie and the entire company bring. The entirety of the play is a battle to find the truth between Malina and Ira, yet there is great depth within the character of Adam. As the neutral character, it’s not until he breaks down that we see is true colors. Well, there’s also the end. With such a fervent button, Safdie gives us the answer to the mystery of Adam. And it’s a bit of a let down. Let ambiguity shine! If this is an integral moment, finding the middle ground between answer and vagueness will leave the audience rightly satisfied.
|photo by Russ Rowland|
Rather than keep things simple, director Sarah C. Carlsen put her foot on the gas on revved up the speed. The structure of Safdie’s script was consistently moving and Carlsen kept the velocity up. The fluidity in her staging was strong, using a less is more philosophy and expertly maneuvering the secret-filled cube-inspired set by Brian Dudkiewicz. Dudkiewicz’s grey cube was the perfect screen for Nicholas Blade Guldner’s energized video design. While mostly relegated to the preshow, Guldner’s design was evocative and set the right tone. The score by Krystle Henniger was reminiscent of a triumphant movie soundtrack with its highs and lows. Though it felt bigger than it appeared, the cube set didn’t allow for much isolation but lighting designer Christina Watanabe played around with color and moods, discovering a way to theatrically keep Adam present in the play but not in the scene.
Unseamly is a winning production from start to finish. Oren Safdie’s topical tale is haunting and more thrilling than the endless news cycles that inspired it.