Actor-director-playwright Regina Taylor’s quasi-experimental stop. reset. (Signature Theatre) takes place in the offices of the awkwardly named Alexander Ames Chicago Black Book Publishers, a business faintly reminiscent of the Johnson Publishing Company (who brought us Ebony and Jet magazines). Though you can’t tell from the ultra-chic, expensive design of the set, with its blindingly white Eames chairs and giant video projections alive with scrolling quotes and archival footage, AACBBP has fallen on very hard times, and the four employees left are certain that Ames will soon fire one of them.
Conveniently for the play’s simplistic management of racial politics, each employee represents a different demographic—white man, black man, Asian woman, black woman: nearly the structure of an ethnic joke. The joke’s on the workers, though, as Ames falls under the spell of J, their shady, tech-savvy, multiethnic young janitor, whose grasp on identity, nationalism, and the future of publishing as they relate to social media and cyberspace verges on the supernatural. Is he the ghost of ADD future? Is that OK? Or will we get stripped down to our union suits and lost in a video curtain of ones and zeros? Like the play, J’s character is loaded with empty significance and trendy buzzwords that whizz past in a torrent of sentence fragments.