Friday, February 17, 2012

Assistance ***

(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
If the miracle drug that combats workplace depression in the current play Rx actually existed, the good folks at Primary Stages should rush a shipment to Playwrights Horizons pronto. The characters in Leslye Headland's new play now in previews there could really use it! The six under-30s in her play are all personal assistants or interns whose hellish job is to cater to the needs of their tyrannical, abusive boss Daniel. Although Daniel is never seen or heard, we get a vivid picture of him from the assistants' half of many phone conversations. Each character finds some way to cope with the constant pressure, sometimes supporting, other times subverting each other. Some of the strongest scenes in the play are monologues during which the character absolutely loses it. Some of their scenes together are hilarious, others are just annoying. The fine cast -- Michael Esper, Virginia Kull, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Sue Jean Kim, Amy Rosoff and Bobby Steggert -- show deep commitment to their roles. David Korins' set of a Tribeca office complete with cast iron pillars, brick walls, exposed ducts, industrial lighting, fire sprinklers, Aero chairs and lots of clutter is terrific (just how terrific will be apparent before the play is over!) Trip Cullman's direction keeps the play moving along at a brisk pace. Nevertheless, I found the play tiresome a good deal of the time. But then.... the final scene brought the play to an unexpected and highly theatrical ending that the audience (myself included) absolutely loved. I don't recall being so exasperated and so exhilarated by the same play. Running time: 85 minutes.

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