The Public Theater is currently presenting a fascinating play by Julia Cho, OFFICE HOUR, which is inspired but flawed. It begins with two teachers warning another about a troubled student she is about to get in her class. The student has exhibited anti-social behavior and written violent diatribes for class assignments. The fear is that he will become a shooter and yet they feel their hands are tied by academic expression rules in place at the university. Inspired by the Virginia Tech shooting and instructed by the many shootings since then it feels very dangerous.
The playwright does an incredible job of presenting the intricate dance of psychological revelations played out between the teacher and student. These scenes are touching and spellbinding as she slowly opens him up. However they are interspersed with short scenes of intense violence. These could be “alternate paths” the encounters can take, or fantasies in the mind of the student, but disrupted the delicate unwinding that had me enthralled. The first time it was shocking, the second time disturbing and then more and more predictable and reductive.
Ultimately I think she has written a fascinating script. Did she have to include the violent bits to get a producer interested? I wish she hadn’t. However the cast, Greg Keller, Sue Jean Kim, Ki Hong Lee and Adeola Role are exceptional and the play worth seeing.
NEXT WEEK: Thanksgiving week and a long forgotten holiday!