The Sandbox Series at San Francisco Playhouse focuses on premiering brand new plays, but just “new” won’t do. We assess hundreds of submissions for truly unique voices, playwrights whose approach to telling stories has not been heard before and whose writing gives us a perspective we have not yet seen. Non-Player Character by Walt McGough took us inside the world of video games to wrestle with language not yet used on the stage. In Braunau by Dipika Guha applied the rules of black farce to a grisly topic to enable us to see with new eyes. In this season’s final Sandbox Series production, Lynn Rosen applies her singular brand of heightened language to the lives of cubicle-dwellers in the bowels of a proofreading office.
Our characters — a budding novelist, a wannabe rock star, a wallflower dreamer and their terror-stricken supervisor — wrestle with the possible death of a disappeared former co-worker whose body may have washed up on the Potomac. At first glance these office workers may seem like sitcom stereotypes or humans who have buried themselves inside well-worn roles, but the playwright’s muscular language endows them with a heightened ability to give voice to their fears and dreams. She makes them all into poets, turning office banter into powerful verse elevating their lives.
As Sherri, our protagonist, battles the domination of her mother and the pigeonholing of her demeaning office job, she reaches up out of despair by clinging to the possibility that the presumably washed-up Joyce has instead run away to create a brilliant and original life. In Sherri’s imagination with the help of the young novelist, she builds her own mythology of rebirth. Many of us will remember that catastrophic event that helped us or drove us to turn a corner in our lives, the crisis whose jolt of adrenaline pushed us out of our comfort zone into a new and terrifying landscape. Washed Up on the Potomac gives its dreamers eloquent and potent language to take us with them on their journey.