“Enterprise,” Brian Parks’ New Play, Skewers Insanity, Inc.

Enterprise

Derrick Peterson and Alyssa Simon take corporate action in Enterprise. Photo: Ian W. Hill.

Enterprise is a new play by Brian Parks, which Ian W. Hill is directing at The Brick (579 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY) and presenting through his company, Gemini CollisionWorks. Running through Feb. 18, this is a great opportunity to see two cutting-edge theater artists at work.

Parks’ Americana Absurdum was famously one of the main reasons that the New York International Fringe Festival (better known as FringeNYC) was launched. (For a bio on Parks, his plays and more, click here.) While Hill has created many theatrical spectacles with Gemini CollisionWorks, his most recent collaboration with Parks, The Golfer, won five New York Innovative Theatre Awards last year.

Enterprise presents a charmingly dizzy view of the corporate world. The kind of world where you think, OK, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here. If surviving in it is even an option.

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Sanders (Fred Backus), Landry (Adam Files), Weaver (Derrick Peterson) and Owens (Alyssa Simon) are intrepid executives who know they can save their company. Their generic-sounding names and suits are perhaps what keeps them from falling into voids of dread and uncertainty. Outside their sphere of robust commerce, there are mysterious “black sites” — where unpleasant things, best not discussed, happen. This is a world in which most things assumed to be constant may not be any longer. Dozens of short, dreamlike scenes flash in and out of the darkness — flawlessly held together by Berit Johnson’s lighting and Hill’s own groovy sound design.

What is sane in Corporate America?

The characters realize that a budget committee announcement will bring on disaster — one they can prevent by going upstairs and warning the Chairman. Soon after, they trudge onstage, in shock, all having wet their pants (costumes are by Kaitlyn Day — they sustain a lot of abuse). Now, despite concerns about their lingering odor, they pledge to sit down in their high-rise office and write a proposal to restore their fortunes. It’s uphill work, involving a thesaurus and other grammatical tools. It also brings great sadness and suspense. One scene ends with an explanation of what an “ellipsis” is. Amid mounting stress, Sanders buys a new suit, prompting his colleagues to accuse him of being a corporate spy. They bully him so much, he threatens to jump out the window — all the while explaining gravitational acceleration, which is 9.8 meters per second. The nicest thing that Owens can say to this is “Don’t kill yourself in metric.”

The remainder of the play compassionately sketches the pathos of working in such an environment. A newly hopeful Sanders admits that he has many flaws, all contained in a nicely-organized memo. One may feel watched all the time in this place — because one is. The cast and director work overtime to give us a bewildering array of things to think about. These days, in corporate America, we are indeed skilled if we can focus on what is sane and sustainable.

For tickets to Enterprise, click here.

And now, 5 questions no one has ever asked Brian Parks:

What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?

That I seem to sometimes have a thing for both leprechauns and talking wolverines. I’ve had to promise myself no more wolverines, though there is a well-read badger in one of my new pieces. (No mammals other than humans appear in Enterprise.)

What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?

Given the somewhat absurd nature of most of my plays, there’s really no such thing as a true idiotic question about them — the idiocy is more in the plays themselves!

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What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?

I suppose “Where do you get your play ideas?” But weird only because the question supposes that the plays come from something as important as an idea, when they’re instead more odd impulses combined with having some screwball fun with language.

What would happen if the government tried to run the US like a business?

It would certainly need a fresh name. Some might argue for “USA, Inc.” Although I think “USA Ltd.” has a nicer sound.

I love your epic tales of the consequences of human actions. To paraphrase a question asked of Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing, is there anything so unethical to get revenue that a company should not do it?

Obviously companies should not be unethical to get revenue. The difficulty is that they often get to define “ethical” for themselves. Odd, though, how even the least ethical companies often still provide their employees with nice lunchrooms.

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Bonus question:

You have done tremendous work to invigorate avant-garde theater. What is your next theatrical venture?

There’s a new production of my play The House that will happen in the fall at the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton. The same play will also be done in a small tour in the UK, and is being adapted for production in Germany. Hopefully it will happen in NYC at some point down the road. And I’ve got late drafts of a few new pieces. Not sure which of those will happen next. Also, I’d here like to thank Ian Hill and Berit Johnson for having Gemini CollisionWorks mount Enterprise, the Brick Theater for having us, and actors Alyssa Simon, Derrick Peterson, Adam Files and Fred Backus for being so great with all the play’s speed and weirdness.

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