Oklahoma City Theatre Company has opened “Seven Interviews,” a new work by New Mexico playwright Mark Dunn that contemplates the most basic of human interactions, the one-on-one encounter. The play is comprised of seven unconnected scenes of 10 to 15 minutes each.
Dunn uses the term “interviews” broadly. Some of the encounters are more like confrontations.
The “interviewers” are a small business proprietor, nonfiction author, PR flack for a small-time baseball team, newspaper reporter, Christian school headmistress, hatchet man and business executive. TooToo Cirlot, Holly McNatt and Johnnie Payne play all the roles. Doug VanLiew directs the simply staged production, utilizing a desk, two tables, a few chairs and about two handfuls of props.
According to the program, the individual scenes are not titled, but some may be substantial enough to be developed into full-length plays. Taken as a whole, “Interviews” forms sort of a concave arc.
The first three scenes involve the owner of a business called Main Street Solutions interviewing the replacement for a secretary he has not yet fired; the author of a biography of a U.S. president interviewing the chief executive’s former secretary; and someone being interviewed for the job of mascot for a baseball team called the Centipedes.
This is not exactly the next “Hamlet,” but neither are most plays.
Dunn then detours through three darker, more interesting scenarios.
One involves a college professor who has gotten into some kind of kerfuffle over taking seminude photographs of young, male undergraduates with “bodies unblemished by time.”
The next shows the ordeal of a struggling, single mother who is trying to keep her daughter in a Christian school following a family tragedy. The woman suffers a crisis of faith, and Dunn touches lightly on the question of whether these schools are teaching religion or brainwashing children. “Whatever happened to Christian charity?” the mother asks. One wonders whatever, indeed.
In the third scene, another mother weaves a tangled web when she seeks the help of a professional killer to exact revenge on someone who attacked her daughter.
The last bit is between a business executive and the Eastern European immigrant custodian who cleans his office at night. Here, Dunn’s characters have a satisfying depth, revealing both their good and bad sides, and, opportunely, the scene takes place on Christmas Eve.
According to a program note, Dunn has written mostly for amateur theater — that is, plays with large casts and small budgets. “Interviews” is his attempt at writing for professional theater, which these days means small casts and preferably somewhat larger budgets.
As part of OCTC’s “New Voices” series, “Seven Interviews” runs in rotation with “Family Funeral” by Oklahoma City playwright David Pasto. With these following the company’s Native American New Play Festival a few weeks ago, OCTC is staging more new work this season than all other companies in town combined. For those of us who long to see more original plays presented locally, here’s a chance.