Keira Keeley and Chris Heuisler in The Thugs
(© Monique Carboni)
Keira Keeley and Chris Heuisler in The Thugs
(© Monique Carboni)
Somebody stole the second act. That's the only explanation for the title of Adam Bock's new play The Thugs, we thought. After all, we had been watching this mildly engaging work about temp workers in a big law firm, when, suddenly, after about an hour of indecisive story development, the cast came out and took their bow and everyone left. It seemed impossible that Bock -- whose previous plays include Five Flights and Swimming in the Shallows -- just didn't commit a second act to paper.

Or maybe The Thugs is simply what it appears to be on the surface, a slightly heightened rendition of a day in the life of seven people who work in an office. But then, who are the thugs of the title supposed to be? The unseen bosses who run the law firm for whom these workers slave? The two women who wield extremely minor power over the other five workers? The rumored killers who may or may not have murdered a couple of people who recently died in the building?

This murder melodrama angle gives the play a little bit of a goose of excitement -- not to mention that it brings some excitement to these characters. They are bored out of their minds and are looking for anything -- even a bit of gossip or a wild rumor -- to enliven their lives. These are people who have no real direction and precious little hope. It is, indeed, a sad story.

However, when the play ends, we want to know more about some of these people. Why has Diane (Carmen M. Herlihy), who runs the office, been working in that office for more than eight years? Why is Daphne (Keira Keeley) in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend? What is Bart's (Brad Heberlee) story; he seems like a smart, gay man. But from who or what is he hiding out. Then, there is the perpetual outsider, the almost clownish, yet poignantly striving Mercedes (Mary Shultz). What's her story? Bock must know, but he isn't telling.

What makes the play somewhat deceptive is the set design by David Korins, the costume design by Michelle R. Phillips, the lighting design by Ben Stanton, and the direction by Anne Kauffman, since they all appear to be in the service of a more substantial piece of work.

In the end, the slight nature of the play doesn't get in the way of enjoying the little dramas that get played out by the characters. But you want more from The Thugs. It's kind of like ordering a piece of pizza, not just without the pepperoni, but without the sauce and cheese. The result is an unsatisfying slice. Of life.