DIRECTOR JAMES BLACK describes Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play Gloria, which opens tonight and runs through April 16 at 4th Wall Theatre Company, as “a very dark but very funny satire about millennials and ambition.” Which is accurate, but really only scratches the surface of Jacobs-Jenkins’ humorous and, in one key moment, terrifying examination of our capacity to disengage and measure a person’s value solely in terms of title and income. Featuring an all-Houston cast under the direction of Black, Gloria is another fine example of 4th Wall Theatre Company’s commitment to presenting challenging and provocative theater.
Set inside the fluorescent-lit offices of a New York-based magazine, three petulant assistant editors, a lowly intern, an anxious fact checker, and (cue ominous music) a frumpy copy editor named Gloria spend their time on the clock decrying their lot in language ranging from whiny to existential. At one point, bitter-before-her-time assistant editor Kendra snarls at a hapless 29-year-old colleague, “I will die before I turn 30 in a cubicle.” It’s a cringe-inducing moment, but speaks to the sense of hopelessness these young souls are experiencing.
“It is funny,” says cast member Skyler Sinclair, who plays three very different characters in the play. “You’re going to be laughing until you’re not. And the thing is, that’s real life.”
Sinclair, a veteran of Houston’s stages, has played multiple characters before, including the 2018 A.D. Players production of Around the World in 80 Days, where she and four other actors together performed a total of 39 different characters.
The cast of 'Gloria'
“As an actor, you kind of approach every character as a blank page,” says Sinclair of the juggling act required of her in Gloria. “You read them, and ask, ‘Who are they, and how do they manifest in me personally?” Working with such a great script also helps. “Jacobs-Jenkins has already created characters that are so different from each other. I just have to go out there and play it honest each time.”
Sinclair is especially grateful to be back onstage with fellow actors, preparing for a performance before a live audience, a crucial component when performing a cathartic piece of theater like Gloria. “You do have to go to a vulnerable place when dealing with this kind of topic and drama,” says Sinclair. “When the audience is experiencing that vulnerability with you, and you feed into it, and they give back, in a way. There’s a really beautiful power in that exchange of vulnerability.”