Anyone who’s ever had a Customer Service experience from hell (and who hasn’t?) will be able to relate to the impetus behind “The Veri**on Play,” if not cackle uncontrollably at the over-the-top characters and incredible plot line.
“The Veri**on Play” is now making its premiere run at the Humana Festival for New American Plays at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.
The program description calls it a “primal scream at corporate malfeasance,” and that really about sums it up. The main character Jenni makes what should have been an easily-correctable error in paying her bill. Each of her repeated calls to the provider, however, results in someone saying that they’ll take care of the problem right now, or it’s already taken care of, but still she gets the dun calls from accounting telling her she has an overdue balance.
Her frustration leads her to tell the story at a party, where a mysterious guest directs her to a support group called PHBICS – People Hurt Badly By Inadequate Customer Service – a collection of misfits whose stories are even more incredible than hers and their level of frustration having long passed the point of despair.
Then comes the incredible part. I need not spoil the surprises here, but suffice it to say that it entails two pair of twins in a wild mix-up that would make Shakespeare proud and a quick, unnecessary jaunt across Europe.
There is some thoughtful reflection in the script about what the current state of Customer Service says about the state of America in general, but that doesn’t get in the way of the insanity of the plot line. By the time the support group starts boarding buses and airplanes in the chase scene, the story has slipped out of control. I would like to have seen something a little less manic and a little more appropriate to the main themes of the play at that point, but it all wraps up nicely in a sort of protest song, which could well be called “Can You Hear Us Now?”, a pointed reference to the commercial tag line of the evil corporate empire in question.
I’m not sure where one might see this play again. The language is a little rough for community theatre groups, though it has a large cast (this production does some doubling, often to hilarious effect) and a silly tone that would make it good for an amateur group. The flaws, mostly the unraveling of a coherent plot, would make it an unlikely choice for a professional group. It just doesn’t gel solidly enough.
Still, as the first offering in a weekend of new plays, it’s great for a commiseratory laugh.