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Signature Theatre Presents "stop. reset", by Regina Taylor, at The Pershing Square Signature Center
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Signature Theatre Presents "stop. reset", by Regina Taylor, at The Pershing Square Signature Center

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Signature Theatre Presents:
stop. reset.

Written and Directed by Regina Taylor

Signature Theatre
(Signature Theatre Website)
James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director
Erika Mallin, Exec. Director
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 244-PLAY (7529)

Michi Barall, Teagle F. Bougere, Ismael Cruz Cordova,
Latanya Richardson Jackson, Carl Lumbly, Donald Sage Mackay

Scenic Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Karen Perry
Lighting Design: Lap Chi Chu
Sound Design: Robert Kaplowitz
Projection Design: Shawn Sagady
Fight Direction: Rick Sordelet
Vocal and Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Casting: Telsey + Company/William Cantler CSA
Production Stage Manager: Gwendolyn M. Gilliam
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Artistic Director: Beth Whitaker
General Manager: Adam Bernstein
Director of Marketing: David Hatkoff
Director of Production: Paul Ziemer

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 15, 2013 Matinee

Several hours after having left Signature Theatre, I wrote more notes about the thought-provoking theatrical experience of Regina Taylorís stop. reset. Thatís the ultimate goal of provoking thought processes. One keeps pondering, musing, questioning, and unfolding the visuals and phrases floating in recent memory. And, thatís exactly what this new play is about. Ms. Taylor places the action in the present technological age, in winter, in the executive office of the Alexander Ames Chicago Black Book Publishers. Carl Lumbly is in the role of Mr. Ames, a middle-aged, cultured man who works with very high shelves of African-American classic literature. He loves the smell of books, new and old, the parchment feel, the binding, the weight, the time spent escaping with a book, with no computer interruptions anywhere, on the page, or cell phone calls, texts, photos, or alarms. Amesí wooden desk is in full view of glass partitioned desk cubicles for his staff. The playís setup is that one staff member must be let go that very day to keep corporate heads from closing the office.

Deb (Michi Barall), a long-time employee, quick-talking and of Asian heritage, has financial needs, with a husband in a temporary job. Chris (Teagle F. Bougere) seems competitive, looking to displace Ames with his youth, technical prowess, and the fact that heís also African-American. In fact, each character is eager to show off unique loyalty and vital attributes, in this game of job roulette. Jan (Latanya Richardson Jackson), also African-American, moves more slowly, is middle-aged, but younger than Ames, and feels desperate about her plight. Tim (Donald Sage Mackay), white and older than Deb and Chris, is settling down with a baby on the way, and, like the others, is in a stage of despair and self-preservation. Each of these four characters has a one-to-one with Ames, with Chris winning the prize for lack of restraint. Itís a freezing, windy day, and Jan disappears to get coffee for everyone, in the retro older womanís role, and takes half the play to return. But, itís the final character, J (Ismael Cruz Cordova), a cleaning guy in a dull, camouflaged outfit, who cleans the large windows, then cleans Amesí brain later on. Yes, heís a creature of the future, African-American and contemporary, with an afro hair style, rock music plugged into his ear, some body piercings, and a plan for Ames to reinvent. A neck piece with brain-changing hardware and lit buttons that project or erase thoughts is highlighted, as well as a box of relics from past decades, with a record player, an 8-track cassette, a washboard, and more.

Ms. Taylor includes rap-type monologues that segue through life experiences and political-social-cultural-technological treatises, as well as huge video projections and weather-related sound and sight effects. Robert Kaplowitz created sound, and Shawn Sagady created projections. In addition, Rick Sordelet designed the fight scenes, with Ames in both. I should also mention Mr. Lumblyís dexterity and strength, as he climbed the ladders and walls of books and tumbled with two much younger actors. Plus, he had extensive monologues. Neil Patel designed this office set with walls that frame the films, and Karen Perry designed the office costumes, including Amesí very natty suit. Lap Chi Chu kept lighting focused, so the films could add intensity and the rain could cover the window. Ms. Taylor directed her own play for poignancy and introspection. When Ames reveals the fate of his lost son, the audience was breathless. She sets up the scenes for jolting surprises, intermittent humor, bursts of anger, and momentary pauses, keeping the audience in thought-provoking unease. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at