In Regina Taylor’s thrilling new play “stop. reset.” aging businessman Alexander Ames (Eugene Lee) tells the story of his most precious possession—his family bible. This old tattered book was stolen by his grandfather, a slave. After it was revealed that he could read, his eyes were gouged out. That bible, which sits on the edge of Ames’ desk, holds his entire family tree, their fingerprints embedded on the fabric as it was passed from palm to palm and it is a constant reminder of the price paid for his very existence.
Ames owns one of the largest and most successful African-American publishing houses in the country. The walls and walls of books in his possession, much like his family bible, are more than mere space holders. They hold memories of distinct moments in his life, yet a declining market favoring new technology threatens to yank these precious memories away from him.
He’s left with a command from corporate to downsize and his employees, Tim (Tim Decker), Chris (Eric Lynch), Deb (Lisa Tejero) and Jan (Jacqueline Williams), vie—often viciously—to convince him why they should be the last person standing. However, J (Edgar Miguel Sanchez), the mysterious janitor, throws a monkey wrench in all of their plans as he holds the key to what might save not only the business, but everything Mr. Ames holds dear.
“stop. reset.” is one of the most ingeniously funny, inventive and soul-enriching plays of this season and the immaculate set design by Riccardo Hernandez is the perfect place to house this rousing debate.
Perhaps what is most fascinating in Taylor’s story is the subtle plea for both generations to realize that we need each other as technology advances. This delicate balance plays out between Mr. Ames and J—an everyman of sorts, standing in for the youth we often cast to the side. Taylor urges us to look beyond what we see on their outside, and realize that the key to saving our history, memory and old ways of life is not found in some technological device, but by implanting all we wish to hold dear in their very souls. (Loy Webb).
Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn, (312)443-3800, goodmantheatre.org, $10-$40. Through June 21.