Paul Dunn’s Dalton and Company explores a mammoth workplace problem that is often swept under the rug and wildly underrepresented: sexual favouritism.
The show throws a bunch of scenarios at you and you’re not quite sure how you would, or should, react. Who’s wrong in each scenario? How should the situations be rectified?
It’s all subjective. And that makes it all the more frustrating.
The beneficiary thinks they deserve the special treatment. The person in power thinks their actions are justifiable. And the other people, well, they hope it’s all one big misunderstanding.
That’s how this story begins to unfold.
Daniel Dalton is a multi-award winning author and professor who has accumulated his fair share of fans and adoration over the years. His office is run in a strict and organized fashion, with all employees walking on eggshells, including Karen (Catherine Fitch), who has been by Dalton’s side, as his assistant, for 25 years. His other two employees, Linda (Julia Course) and Randy (Andy Trithardt) are Ivy League students longing for just an ounce of his attention.
And then there’s Charlie (Marcel Stewart) – charming and remarkably underqualified – who swoops in when a job position opens up and steals all of Dalton’s attention, wreaking havoc on the carefully crafted work environment that has been running relatively flawlessly for decades before him.
Each character in the show has an inflated personality in their own way, but not to the extent that you can write them off as archetypal or melodramatic. They are all just like people you know and love. That’s what makes the story even more maddening.
Charlie is calm and smiley throughout the most tragic of circumstances. Stewart maintains this persona of optimistic and ignorant, always thinking he is of aid.
Course plays Linda as a firecracker. She is terrifying and smart, and knows what she wants to the point that she becomes villainous in her pursuit of the truth.
Randy is your typical keener. He lacks the ferocity of Linda, but has the drive. Trithardt is successful at showing us two sides to an initially cool and collected character headed for success.
Then there is Karen. Fitch performs a heartbreaking role as the “woman beside the man.” With no praise and little recognition, she stands by Dalton’s side, stuck in her position, giving a lot and hoping for little, for her entire career.
Staged in the round, in an office-style boxing ring (designed by Jenna McCutchen), the student characters battle it out for Dalton’s attention and a spot to go to Europe as his protégé. In one corner of the setting there is the door to enter the office space and in the opposite corner there is the door to Dalton’s office – a door rarely opened by employees, until Charlie enters the picture.
Dalton and Company makes you question the characters' morals and perhaps your own morals in the process.
The show is creating room for a conversation that doesn’t really happen. It’s fresh, it’s new and it’s frustrating. Safe to say, it’s doing its job.
Presented by Cart/Horse Theatre, the world premiere of Dalton and Company (directed by Matthew Gorman) runs at The Theatre Centre until Feb. 28. For more information visit theatrecentre.org.