Theater folks and lecturers share two traits: They’re satisfied of their calling’s ethical significance to the world, which may present a sense of superiority, however additionally they usually really feel misunderstood and beleaguered, which makes them defensive. As members of a college’s theater division, the characters in Hillary Miller’s new comedy “Preparedness” — offered by the Bushwick Starr and HERE — belong to each constituencies, which signifies that their shoulders hunch underneath boulder-size chips.
That wariness is warranted, although, as their division is underneath assault from the college’s brass, which needs not simply to chop their price range, however eradicate this system altogether.
Figurative and literal survival change into entangled when an irrepressibly chirpy H.R. consultant, Kath (Alison Cimmet), turns up within the division’s shabby — and decidedly not stylish — conference-slash-break room. If the academics bear state-mandated coaching on find out how to deal with a possible mass taking pictures, they may have a greater likelihood of surviving each a gunman and the dean’s delete button.
An assistant professor within the English division at Queens Faculty and the creator of books on theater, Miller is fluent in academia’s quirks and jargon, in addition to interdepartmental rivalries — don’t get the theater professors began on their brethren in movie and digital tech. She additionally nails bureaucracies’ love for acronyms, deployed right here in a dizzying alphabet soup that features MeRP (Mutual Respect Pledge), ACOST (Lively Campus Operations Shooter Coaching) and GOHOHOF (Get Out, Cover Out, Assist Out, Battle), in addition to references to “FERPP requests” and “FULAP varieties.”
Miller and the director Kristjan Thor neatly sketch sure sorts that flip up in just about each group of educators. Most memorable are the beleaguered chairman, Jeff (Lou Liberatore), doing his darnedest to save lots of his division, and Laurette (the fantastic Nora Cole, grasp of the haughty aspect eye), a grande dame susceptible to assertion shawls and imbued with the authority that comes from charisma, expertise and lofty beliefs about her vocation. “We’re theater artists,” she says. “We create sacred areas for a dwelling!”
Simply as acquainted is the high-strung, humorless Haydée García-Shelton (Tracy Hazas), who appears to have a tough time gelling together with her colleagues — she casually informs them that she obtained married over the weekend, as if it have been no massive deal — and reveals disdain for musicals and their followers. “Should you ask these folks about my work, they’ll fake to care, after which they’ll go proper again to pushing their GoFundMe for bouffant wigs,” she says. One guess as to who will ultimately use pepper spray.
Getting this motley bunch to agree on something, particularly an administrative injunction perceived as an imposition, is akin to herding cats — actual ones, in contrast to Cat Blanchett, the division’s new robotic “Resilience Mascot,” a gesture meant to assist enhance the sinking morale.
Finally, although, Miller can’t resolve a central challenge: A number of the professors’ refusal to bear coaching is mystifying. It’s simple to grasp resistance to H.R., however a fast coaching session that each covers a really actual concern — mass shootings in faculties — and saves your funding appears like a gimme. And but they bicker.
Having painted herself right into a nook, Miller can’t determine find out how to finish the play. So she offers Laurette, who’s retiring, the final phrase within the type of an deal with to her college students. It’s a good speech, and a dodge.
By means of Dec. 11 at HERE Arts Heart, Manhattan; thebushwickstarr.org. Operating time: 1 hour half-hour.