What most intrigues director Scott Schwartz about audiences' reaction to What We're Up Against is whether they see a woman battling to get ahead in an architecture firm more as a comedy or as a drama.
"The audience is the last character in the play," he says.
The black comedy by Theresa Rebeck is the second time that Schwartz has directed one of her plays at the Alley. Previously, he directed Mauritius and when he had a chance to meet Rebeck later at a new play conference, "we kind of got to be friends," he says, and they have stayed in touch.
Schwartz, who grew up in a theatrical family with an actress mother and a composer father, says he likes doing new plays and new musicals, but enjoys the classics as well. "I like running the gamut."
He describes the basic plot as about a young woman who has been hired by the owner of the company and has been with the firm six months, and the head of her division still won't give her anything to do. Fellow architects -- all men -- can't come up with a solution to a particular problem. She can and does, but the powers that be don't want to use it because it comes from her.
Besides being about glass ceilings for women, Schwartz said the play is "about excellence and how in America today there's a sort of slide toward accepting what's okay, taking the easy route."
As such, Schwartz says, this extends beyond being just a woman's play. "I think it will appeal to anyone who struggles in a corporate environment or office."
It will also, he adds, "appeal to anyone who likes a good twisty, turny kind of plot. There's a lot of backstabbing. It's a fun ride. There's a great surprise at the end."
What We're Up Against opens May 16 and runs through June 10 on the Neuhaus Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For tickets, call 713-220-5700 or go to the theater's Web site.