Review: A Million More to Go by Jarrott Productions
by David Glen Robinson


Cinnamon Path Productions and Jarrott Productions have premiered Max Langert's new absurdist comedy A Million More to Go at Trinity Street Playhouse in downtown Austin. The conjunction of forces by these two companies has salutary effects for theatre audiences: satisfying entertainment and, oddly, thoughtful commentary on current social and political issues.


Langert has written much, including theatre pieces Gibberish Mostly, produced by Ground Floor Theatre, and The Pact, recently presented by Jarrott Productions, the company noted for giving us messages of biting social commentary and even more sharply biting but hilarious comedy.


Jarrott Productions company member Will Gibson Douglas directs this piece, which is mostly comedy but with bits of commentary. A Million More to Go is a comedy but not a light one. Douglas is devoted to fast-paced dialogue and action. He knows well that wit and pithy one-liners “sell” even an absurd story to audiences.


This is a work of absurdism with pronounced overtones of foreboding. These characters know something conspiratorial is going on, but they never figure out what. They accept as normal the fact that they're confined to a windowless office in the boondocks where an armed guard monitors them and takes notes as they analyze thousands of completed election ballots. New hires are brought in blindfolded, given a one-letter “name” (no vowels), and sent to training. They surrender their cell phones and never, ever answer the land-line wall phone. Oh, but some do . . .


Kelsey Mazak, Natalie Garcia (photo by Steve Rogers)Natalie D. Garcia as T turned in another one-of-a-kind character study. She inhabited the role of the office manager, laying down the rules with stern efficiency slathered with snark but softening with embarrassed smiles when she had her facts corrected or lies exposed. She was a champion eye-roller. Almost single-handedly she created the pronounced layer of mistrust and atmosphere of deception (what’s really going on here?). We waited for a culminating explosion or meltdown from her as a plot pivot, but, surprisingly, that dessert confection was granted to others. Kudos to playwright Langert.


Garcia’s success demonstrates once again her unpredictable diversity of characterization. T is entirely different from her roles in Significant Other, Deathtrap, The Pact, and the rest. Entering a theatre featuring Natalie Garcia gives a delightful Christmas-morning anticipation of her next character, to be pulled from under the tree as a well-wrapped gift.


But Garcia is only the primus inter pares of a trio of highly skilled female actors, the others being Jennifer Jennings and Kelsey Mazak. Jennings is the exemplar of ease of performance and clarity of exposition, two qualities she shares with the other actors onstage. She's a joy to watch in any of her various characters. As R, she was an office grind who couldn’t remember her training and continually warded off a colleague's sexual harassment.


Mike Ooi, Jennifer Jennings (photo by Steve Rogers)


Kelsey Mazak has arrived at leading-role status but blends comfortably into an ensemble. I remember well how she mastered her role as Jenna in Ground Floor Theatre’s Jenna and the Whale (in which Jennings played her mother). Mazak was blindfolded as she entered A Million More to Go, and she took the name V before being hustled off for training. She came back knowing the training manual better than T. She asked almost premonitory questions of "The Bloodhound," the threatening wooden box with a light on it at downstage right. Perhaps naively, she showed no fear in answering the wall phone.


Natalie Garcia, Kelsey Mazak Mike Ooi, Jennifer Jennings, Jason Graf (photo by Steve Rogers)


Mike Ooi is back on stage after Filigree Theater’s Antigone. Still earlier, Ooi was a stalwart with the Austin Commedia Society. Another actor who generously entertains and trains all who work with him, Ooi was S, one of the driven office workers—driven by fear. But of course, fear is funny. Ooi communicated it vividly with facial expressions and body language. He's capable of the most subtle reactions, and he never dropped energy.


Jennifer Jennings, Natalie Garcia, Kelsey Mazak, Mike Ooi (photo by Steve Rogers)


When you have a contemporary five-cast-member play, but it calls for eight on-stage characters, what are you going to do? That’s right, cast Jason Graf to play all the rest. Graf, last year’s Appalachian MacBeth for Archive Theatre, delivered those roles with ease, complete with distinctly different character voices and contrasting costumes. Kudos to Graf for four roles well played.


A Million More to Go is surprisingly clean material for all its dark and sometimes gritty undertones. The jokes and repartee are accessible to children and theatre mavens twelve years of age and older. It's a hugely funny and thought-provoking comedy and an auspicious collaboration. It runs at the Trinity Street Playhouse in downtown Austin until June 30th, 2024.

A Million More to Go
by Max Langert
Jarrott Productions

June 14 - June 30, 2024
Trinity Street Players
Black Box Theatre, 4th floor, First Baptist Church
901 Trinity Street
Austin, TX, 78701

June 14 - 30, 2024

Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Trinity Street Players, 4th floor of First Austin, 901 Trinity Street

Tickets are now on sale: