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C.Y.A.

Michael Leicht and Janise Whelan navigate the office in C.Y.A.

By Darcelle Bleau | Posted 8/15/2007

Kimberley Lynne's C.Y.A.--the Mobtown Players' entry in the Baltimore Playwrights Festival--is a contemporary office drama that tackles a number of workplace issues: racism, sexism, affairs, workers' compensation, health insurance, fraud. As six employees of an investment-banking firm perform their professional activities, they struggle with the corporation, and personal integrity and loyalties collapse under the weight of conspiracy and greed.

A jazz version of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" plays as C.Y.A. opens on a simple and effective blue-lit stage. Two administrative-assistant desks sit at the front of the stage, a conference room and executive office at the back. The waste paper baskets are full, and a plant in the corner is flourishing--these accents take on meaning later in the play.

The offices' two executives are Harry and Jerry. Harry, despite being referred to repeatedly, never comes into the office. Jane Columbus (Eileen Cuff) hasn't figured that out yet. It is her first day as Harry's assistant, and human resources representative Susan (Adele Russell) introduces Jane to the rules of the corporation. This formal introduction gives way to the "way things really are," which Jane slowly learns from her colleague Mary (Janise Whelan).

The dynamic between Jane and Mary is entertaining, interesting, and real. Jane innocently cites historical examples to prove that America's current ethical and moral crisis is a continuation of, not a deviation from, its past; Mary struggles to maintain her sense of self, her loyalty, and her capacity to love while working for a corrupt organization. It is the exchange between these two women, enhanced by the dynamic presence of analyst Jason (Zak Jeffries), that fuels the play's emotional and dramatic action.

Mary is the assistant to Jerry (Michael Leicht), a stereotypical high-powered executive who, along with his boss Ken (Stephen Rourke), bends the rules to suit his needs. They lie and coerce others into lying. They grab their assistants and cheat on their wives. Jerry's interaction with Mary, though, becomes more nuanced as the play advances. Mary needs "someone to stand between her and the world," a responsibility she gives to Jerry during the day and to her husband at night. When her husband is injured on the job, this "secondary status" becomes problematic for Mary. C.Y.A. may be as much a woman's awakening to individuality and independence as it is a condemnation of unjust corporate behavior.

C.Y.A. isn't a short play--with intermission, it stretches close to two and a half hours--but it's entertaining and well-directed, and its time passes quickly.

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