OFFICE HOUR (SOUTH COAST REP)

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If I was a betting man (which I am), I would put money on Julia Cho’s Office Hour going to New York City in the foreseeable future. In this drama, English Professor Gina (Sandra Oh from Grey’s Anatomy) has a tough conversation with troubled student Dennis (played by Raymond Lee), who other professors worry may be a shooter (like Virginia Tech and UC Santa Barbara). Gun violence on American campuses, unfortunately, is a very relevant issue that plagues our country. Cho also packs into a tight  90 minutes, discussions about America’s “white” culture, gun control, mental health, and fear.

Director Neel Keller is a master at creating fear on stage, as well as dark comedy. I still feel haunted by his creepy direction from The Nether a couple years ago (I would love to see him direct Deathtrap by Ira Levin at some point). The scenic design at SCR is ALWAYS top notch and Takeshi Kata and Se Oh do not disappoint.

I loved this production; the only thing that bothered me about the show was Raymond Lee. His acting is top notch and he really brings it with the raw emotion, but after seeing Mr. Lee kick-ass (metaphorically and physically) in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone earlier this season, it is hard to believe he is this outcast that he is supposed to be portraying in Office Hour. The two characters are polar opposites. Alex Jaeger does his best to cover up Lee’s good looks with baggy clothes and acne marks, but those charming features still stuck out to me. Lee is an amazing actor and it kills me to say this, because I’m a huge fan of his work, but I think SCR could have found someone who looked the part a bit more convincingly.

Whiteness, culture, gun control, mental health, and fear are hard topics for an audience to confront; which is why it is even more important for people to see this show. I hope theater-goers will show up to see Sandra Oh’s acting prowess (she carries and drives a majority of the show) and walk away willing to discuss and change their way of thinking. Like most great theatre, Office Hour makes you ask yourself “what should
WE do?” We can’t solve the issues that Cho brings up if we ignore them or pass them off to someone else to deal with. Don’t pass or fail to show up to Office Hour, you won’t regret the things you see or learn.

Jerusha: This one hit too close to home for me. I wasn’t in the mood to be reminded about the state of gun control in our world. As always, SCR kills it with their production value, but I just couldn’t get into this one. And what a rowdy crowd for a Wednesday night!

 

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