Monday, March 16, 2009

The Receptionist & H.R

Two appealing theatre experiences for the price of one at Dobama

When Dobama Theatre decided to produce Adam Bock’s short script ‘THE RECEPTIONIST,’ they agreed that a “matching” piece might be of interest and complete the evening. They commissioned local playwright Eric Coble to create the material. The result? ‘H.R.’

The match works wonderfully. Both showings have humor. One has a 2010 twist, the other harks back to the paranoid days of Bush and Chaney’s searching for the “bad” guys.

‘THE RECEPTIONIST,’ which is set in a unknown office. On the wall is a large seal that kind of looks like the CIA, or it could be the FBI, or Homeland Security. Hmmm! Chit chat between the receptionist and a female employee centers on dating and family issues. Mr. Raymond, the boss hasn’t shown up yet. What’s he the boss of? Hmmm! When he arrives he looks flustered and rattles on about broken fingers and wire in eyes. Hmmm! Someone from the Central Office shows up and takes Mr. Raymond away. Why? Hmmm!

I’m not going to tell you any more other than that except that when the lights went out at the end of ‘THE RECEPTIONIST,’ in a too real sense I thought I might never feel safe again. I also appreciated that the present President’s name is Obama and not Bush.

My feelings weren’t echoed by at least one attendee who, at the conclusion, loudly stated, “What’s with the end? Did the playwright just run out of words? Nope, he just wanted you to think about what went on in our all too recent past, when there were ever present years of seeking out the hidden enemy by the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

The well directed production, under the watchful eye of Joel Hammer, was appropriately under-paced. It lolled the audience into humorous complacency until the bombshell went off. And, even that bombshell was wisely underplayed! All of the actors, Jennifer Kika, Michael Regnier, Tom Woodward and Lissy Gulick, who are the same cast who appeared in ‘H.R.’ developed their roles well in both ends of the twin bill.

‘H.R.’ is as modern as today. In this age of downsizing and firings, the fear of the unknown invades any office when H.R. (Human Resources) says its coming to talk to the staff.

Writing in the style of true farce, Coble penned a hysterically funny script, full of overblown characters, each one with a secret to hide, which are revealed through slips of the tongue and acting double-takes. This is one fun piece of theatre.

Director Joe Verciglio has nicely paced the goings-on so that all the overblown farce comes out clearly. The character developments are on target and each actor has a nice image of who s/he is.

Michael Roech’s office set, which is used for both plays, was so realistic that before the opening night performance, a member of the audience wandered into the thrust stage area and took a drink from the water cooler, while another took some candy out of a bowl on a secretary’s desk. Talk about realism.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘THE RECEPTIONIST’ plus ‘H.R.’ deserved the positive reaction given to them by the opening night sold out audience. This is a good evening of theatre which contains both laughter and intrigue.