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'Policy's' Message Feels Heavy-Handed

September 25, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Set in 1993 in a small California insurance company, Michael Ajakwe Jr.'s "Company Policy," now being presented by the Unity Players at the Inglewood Playhouse, is an overly talky play about sexism and racism in the workplace that falls midway between comedy and moralizing melodrama--an unwieldy hybrid.

Insurance company owner Sam Churchill (Phil Hunter) hires A. LaShaun Lee (Regina Williams), a perky African American insurance broker, as a management trainee. At the same time, Anne Marie Garrett (Lauren Linn Taylor), Churchill's second-in-command, hires Lance Malone (Spencer Scott), another African American, for the same position. Churchill treats the attractive LaShaun with undisguised favoritism. Anne Marie's advances toward Lance are more of the "put out or get out" variety. Both white bosses intend their newly hired probationers to duke it out for a permanent position with the company. Wonder of wonders, LaShaun and Lance bond instead.

Although he has a talent for believable dialogue, Ajakwe oversells his simplistic, us-against-them message. Yvette Culver's otherwise smooth staging is hampered by huge, static gaps between scenes--completely unnecessary considering that this is a one-set play with a minimum of prop shifts. However, dynamic central performances by Scott and Williams hold our interest throughout, and render Ajakwe's repetitive philosophizing far more palatable.

*

* "Company Policy," Inglewood Playhouse, 740 Warren Ave. (in Edward Vincent Park), Inglewood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Oct. 4. $12. (213) 860-3208. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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