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Job Loss Figures at The Colonial Players

Promising Playwright’s work addresses the terror about being unemployed and losing one’s place in this world

After being laid off from his job, the only person Frank (Dave Carter) can talk honestly with is his mother Louise (Angie Dey), who has dementia.

It’s rare that a new playwright gets to workshop a play with a director, actors and an audience.
    Andrea Fleck Clardy of Jamaica Plain, Mass., got that chance last summer when her play, Job Loss Figures, won The Colonial Players’ Promising Playwright contest. Now, Clardy gets to see her play on stage starting July 12.
    She says she is “deeply grateful” for Colonial Players’ investment of time, talent, care and money. “It makes an enormous difference in the writing.”
    At a recent rehearsal, the actors were still on book, but “so committed to their characters, the questions they raised are so much from within the person,” the playwright says.
    Before this play, she had written some 50 10-minute plays; about 30 have been produced.
    As a final-round reader for the contest, I found the characters and their problems relatable. In the hands of actors who can hit varying emotional levels, the play will not only entertain but also provoke thought.
    Frank Hill has lost his tech job and can’t find another, trying the patience of his wife, daughter and father. He’s able to talk honestly only with his mother, who has dementia. His new friendship with a jobs-center hanger-on, who takes a special interest in him, makes his situation all the more challenging.
    A situation and a study inspired Clardy to write Job Loss Figures, her first full-length play, expanded from an earlier 10-minute play called ­Solitaire. Since she began Solitaire in 2014, she has revised and strengthened the play based on comments from writing coach Michele Lowe, last year’s audience, actor-readers and this year’s performers.
    An ethnographic study of white, middle-aged, middle-class men in Texas who had worked in the software business and were laid off in 2008, the book A Company of One got Clardy thinking about men who “never imagined they would find themselves in the situation they were in.” That describes Frank Hill.
    Louise is drawn largely from Ruth Bernard, the late mother of Clardy’s best friend.
    Just as numbers never tell the whole story, much more is going on in Job Loss Figures. “The terror about being unemployed and losing one’s place in this world is more acute and more important now,” the playwright says.
    Added are themes of class, race and hollowed-out communication.
    “They talk past each other,” notes director Carol Youmans. They also clearly love one another, which saddens their inability to communicate.
    The middle child of three girls, mother of two sons and married 51 years, Clardy says she has had “an interesting opportunity to notice how communication does and doesn’t work.”
    Communication mishaps are a hallmark of her work.
    “We don’t know how to communicate and don’t know that what we’re saying is being taken in the way it’s meant,” she says.
    By oversimplifying language to good and bad without gradation, “we’re all encouraged to imagine it’s that simple,” Clardy says. “It’s very treacherous to encourage a nation of people to believe that everything can be divided that way.”
    Theatre is not there to provide answers, Clardy says, but to offer resonance to theatergoers dealing with their own crises. “Theater has the potential to provide a kind of companionship in one’s struggles.”

Thurs., Fri., Sat. 8pm; Sun. 2pm, Colonial Players, Annapolis, $10, rsvp: