Bock first attracted major attention when his play The Thugs was produced at Soho Rep in 2006, winning great reviews and an Obie Award. The drama centered on a group of temp workers who work in a big law firm where terrible things may or may not be happening on the 9th floor. Bock makes his uptown debut this fall with another office-set drama, The Receptionist. In it, corporate functionaries pass the day talking about boyfriends, bagels, the boss and other water-cooler topics, until the arrival of a Mr. Dart reveals their innocuous workplace to be anything but. Bock, who knows from cubicles and copy machines, talked to Playbill.com about what lurks behind the receptionist's desk.
Playbill.com: You actually worked as a receptionist, didn't you?
Adam Bock: I did, at a designing firm. I was also a receptionist at a temp agency. I was actually a temp at temp agency. (Laughs)
Playbill.com: I'm guessing from the play that you did not like being a receptionist.
AB: The thing that was so interesting is you have a lot of power, because you know everything that's going on, yet you have no power, because you're not allowed to leave your desk.
Playbill.com: Did you intend The Receptionist to be a companion piece to The Thugs? There are some shared themes. They're both about office life, and mysterious unseen things are going on.
AB: I'm really interested in work and how we treat each other at work and what we're willing to do for work. I wrote another play called The Typographer's Dream where people's psychology was what they did. It's interesting to me — why do we accept the kind of work that we do? How does it impact us? We spend so much time at work.
Playbill.com: Is it your idea that we're willing to ignore a lot of things because it's our job and we need to collect a paycheck?
AB: I think it's easy to make that happen and make it a living. It's easy to forget what kind of living you're making. I think it's the fear of money. In The Receptionist, the receptionist Beverly has a vested interest in keeping her safety net at work strong. She's willing to look the other way at what happens. Playbill.com: And that includes looking the other way from what our government is up to in the name of supposedly protecting our freedoms?
AB: Absolutely. Yes.
Playbill.com: I found certain aspects of the play reminiscent of Pinter. Is he an influence?
AB: I've never read him. I think probably Caryl Churchill [is an influence, and] I think she's probably read him. I think it's probably impossible not to have been impacted by Pinter even if you haven't read him. He's one of the great dramatists of our time.
Playbill.com: You've said you like to put people who are usually not on stage in your plays, such as these anonymous office workers. Is that because you feel most of us are like these people?
AB: Partly that. I think some of that comes out of being a gay playwright. I like to see gay people on stage, so that the people in life who are more invisible or ignored get to be placed on stage. You know, my life is important to me. The receptionist, that person you walk by at the desk, has a full life.