Ted Koch, Carla Duren, Jessica Wortham, and Nancy Sun in Marginal Loss. Photo by Dana Rogers.
By Deborah Stein
Directed by Meredith McDonough
Review by Leila Toba
Entire contents copyright © 2018 by Leila Toba. All rights reserved
Marginal Loss is a play written by Deborah Stein about an investment firm previously located in the Twin Towers trying to gather the fragments of their business in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. They find themselves working at a backup facility in New Jersey struggling with limited resources and wondering which of their coworkers made it out alive.
The story takes place in a minimal warehouse location where Allegra Park (Nancy Sun) and John Davies (Ted Koch) enter, befuddled and alarmed to discover that they are the only two employees set to the task of gathering company records and ensuring their business relationships with clients. John hires a temp, Margaret Gale (Carla Duren) who despite having no previous knowledge or experience is eager to help.
The show starts off as somewhat difficult to follow, as Allegra and John enter spouting off industry terms and names of companies. Their relationship is somewhat unclear, as they are understandably terse and somewhat hysterical, but their opening dialogue comes off as contrived. When Margaret enters, she is chipper and friendly, but Allegra, who seems unhappy with the idea of a temp, freezes her out. Cathy Lamb (Jessica Wortham), the apparent Vice President of their firm adds to the band with a firm hand and curtness, however, the relationship between these characters carefully builds in the trenches as they work tirelessly to save their company.
The thing that really makes this show interesting is that it explores a perspective rarely considered in the heartache of 9/11. It was fascinating to catch a glimpse into the life of those who had escaped but still had work to do, and lives to live. There are great explanations of why they weren’t in the building that fateful day. Nancy Sun drives home some of these moments with emotional probity, and it is evident that she took this role to heart. Ted Koch works well alongside her, playing the man of steel, trying hard to guard his emotions but still bearing enough tenderness for his coworkers. Carla Duren makes for a charmingly awkward sidekick, gently tiptoeing on eggshells around her overworked mentors, but proves herself to be just as strong. Jessica Wortham is very believable as the head honcho; she comes out powerful, natural and unyielding. She really made the show come to life.
There were moments of grand nostalgia and laughs, like Allegra and John attempting to connect to the Internet through a dial-up connection, and snarky but endearing quips flung back and forth. The best moments were moments when the characters would hear a plane fly by or a siren, and they’d all look at each other, their faces wearing the same trauma of the entire country during that time. Everyone has their own story of where they were during 9/11, and this show serves as an important reminder of the suffering we didn’t witness.
Excellent writing and character dedication make Marginal Loss yet another terrific addition to the illustrious Humana Festival legacy, and is one that should be seen by all.
March 6 – April 8, 2018
Part of the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Leila Toba is an actress who has worked with various theatre companies in Louisville.