Assistance

In playwright Leslye Headland’s droll workplace comedy, the Caligulan corporate boss for whom all workers leap through hoops is never actually seen onstage. Instead, Headland’s opus focuses on the Great Man’s procession of ill-fated young assistants, who are virtually forced to crawl through a sea of muck in their attempt to get a whack at a cubicle office. In a Manhattan corporation, rumpled young assistant Nick (Adam Shapiro) is brilliant at his chosen avocation of bootlicking, flattering and call rolling — so brilliant that he just might wind up being an assistant till his dying day. When senior assistant Vince (Graham Sibley) is promoted (and turns effortlessly into an oily skank), Nick develops some romantic chemistry with Vince’s replacement, Nora (Katie Lowes), who may be just too sensitive for the elevated level of sharkishness required. Meanwhile, all need be wary of the perky ice princess, new hire Jenny (Amy Rosoff). Headland’s skill for scathingly taut dialogue emerges crisply in director Annie McVey’s production. With its ferocious pacing and intense mood, the show captures the resigned hatefulness of those who define themselves by their masters. Shapiro’s cardigan-wearing “big bro” assistant, who knows how to work the system like a virtuoso, particularly shines. Lowes’ ultimately fragile Nora and Rosoff’s she-devil of ambition are similarly believable and funny. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: April 18. Continues through May 24, 2008


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