Two players, one game: getting a driver’s license. As simplistic as the plot was the stage setting of DMV Tyrant. A laptop on a table, a chair and a straightforward topic were more than enough for the two actresses from St Catz to keep an unfortunately tiny audience amused for an entertaining half hour. A smart but subtle critique of our everyday battles with an agonizingly slow bureaucracy and a refreshing reminder that sometimes less is more, especially in drama.
Well, there is, of course, a little bit more to it. To be precise, the young girl who wants to get her driver’s license has already passed her driving test but has come to the DMV office because she is desperately trying to renew her provisional license, and the draconic official who successfully avoids being helpful at all is reading a book while consistently ignoring the polite, then gradually less well-behaved customer in front of her. Add a good portion of humour and the expertise of a playwright, the critically acclaimed Christopher Durang, whose speciality is absurd comedy, and off you go.
It would have been a walk-over to overact the madness of the DMV Tyrant in her silly but eloquent stubbornness or the (justified) fury of the poor girl, incredulous at such an obstinate lack of cooperation. But the actresses were well advised to avoid exaggeration for the sake of authenticity.
If Genevieve Hoeler, playing the DMV officer, convincingly adopted and rendered the all too well-known attitude and tone of those middle-aged civil servants, compensating their bitterness in life with smug self-righteousness at work, her partner, Megan Hughes, had no difficulty in slipping into the role of the outraged young woman either. Although her acting was at times slightly static and, when she was barking at the clerk (without effect, of course), perhaps over the top, the admittedly very scarce movement was nevertheless fully counterbalanced with a verbal sparring that ran like clockwork.
While common sense regrettably didn’t win over the absurd narrow-mindedness of bureaucracy in DMV Tyrant, the actresses, evidently enjoying themselves and obviously well-cast, certainly did win over their audience.