This controversial look at the fashion industry addresses sexual harassment and the tricky, blurred lines which arise when relationships develop in the workplace.
At the young age of 17, Malina (Gizel Jiminez) begins working for The Standard. Though she starts out as an entry level store clerk, it doesn’t take very long for Ira (Jonathan Silver)—CEO of the company—to notice her and promote her to store manager. Though Malina initially perceives his intentions to be harmless or “normal” for behavior in the fashion industry, eventually things escalate and the two end up seeing each other for a period of nearly eight months.
Flash forward a few years. Malina is now 22, and she is first introduced to the audience as she interviews with Adam (Tommy Schrider), the attorney she hopes will represent her in a case in which she plans to bring sexual assault charges against Ira and The Standard. Jiminez’s claim is that she was involuntarily forced to participate in the sexual activities asked of her; that she consistently tried to resist his persuasions and was denied that right.
Ms. Jiminez is a youthful actress who fits the role at either age, 17 or 22, and performs with deep emotional power. She is bright-eyed and optimistic, and—appropriately—minimally skeptical as any young adult entering the workforce would be. In a role which is also physically demanding, Jiminez exhibits impressive athleticism and control, and her presence on stage lends itself to a palpable chemistry with Silver. Silver’s performance as Ira, the company’s CEO, is frenetic and chaotic. The picture painted of this CEO is that of an impulsive, aggressive, and abusive individual who constantly expects to get his own way.
As Malina’s prospective attorney, Schrider’s Adam is a slightly jaded, close-to-the-vest type guy who isn’t much of a risk taker and is hesitant in even considering the young lady’s case. Shrider entertains Malina’s pleas, but is increasingly skeptical of taking her on as a client. The more she goes into detail about the situation, the more it seems that she was possibly in a consenting relationship. Does she really have a case on her hands, or is she pursuing a personal vendetta in the hopes of landing a big paycheck?
Director Sarah C Carlsen does an excellent job of utilizing minimalism to tell the story. Unseamly is told in a non-linear format, and relies heavily on flashbacks. Instead of having set pieces rolling in and out to change scenes, the play is presented in a bright white room which has secret doors and set pieces that pop out of the walls to change the environment and accommodate the next flashback. The set and costumes are both designed by Brian Dudkiewicz, and there is definitely a consistent style throughout. Minimalist with flashes of bright color, the clothing is sexy and trendy, and contributes to the overall theme of the play: costumed liberally, the whole production is steeped in sexuality.
Thanks to balanced writing by Oren Safdie, questioning the motives of both major players is feasible. Unseamly is a sexy but stirring look at an industry that has notoriously objectified women. Ultimately leaving it up to the audience to decide on the truth, this major issue is addressed unapologetically and successfully as a piece of theater.
Unseamly (extended through November 8, 2015)
Urban Stages Theatre, 259 West 30 Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or go to http://www.urbanstages.org
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
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