There are times when the montage elements of The Public Servant drag on too long and a few key character threads are dropped a little carelessly but the new collaborative creation from Common Boots Theatre’s Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amy Rutherford (in association with Nightwood Theatre) is mostly a strong, clever piece of theatre.
Uniquely Canadian and refreshingly fun, The Public Servant is about paper pushers in an under-appreciated government office. Navigating office politics while killing trees and bolding headings, three women at very different places in their careers take centre stage, joined by a few fun extras mostly played by brilliant character artist Amy Rutherford. Rutherford is the cast’s best chameleon but her main character- a tough and jaded boss- is less richly developed than her comrades, at least until her show-stealing final monologue. Amy Keating plays 22-year-old new hire Madge with determined enthusiasm but it’s Sarah McVie’s passive aggressive Knope-ish lifer Lois who has the most intricate, understated arc (and hilariously realistic Reitmans wardrobe thanks to insightful designer Anna Treusch).
Cleverly directed by Jennifer Brewin, The Public Servant is an amusing, if sometimes draggy, love letter to the unsung everyday people who keep this country running. It begins with a monologue about why Canada is worth serving then proceeds to explore the demoralizing bureaucratic realities of said service. A simple, solid, needed piece of theatre.
Note: You’ll be tempted but try to avoid writing “public servant” on the paperwork you’re handed at the top of the show. It’ll help everyone if you don’t try to pretend you get the point before you even see the show.