Office Sonata

The first thing you notice about Danny Cistone’s glossy NYC advertising-agency set, for Andy Chmelko’s workplace satire, is how the clocks showing London and Tokyo time have stopped, and how the minute hands are not aligned — even though the two cities’ time zones only differ by hours. Assuming this is deliberate, it sets a tone for the blazing dysfunction of this office, which is a cauldron of — and haven for — unfettered sadism. Petty employee errors are punished by the arrival of “The Birdman,” who plants himself by the offender’s desk, then follows the victim to the restroom, and even home, with an index finger permanently raised in the victim’s face. Evidently, punishment takes a higher priority than productivity. Other offenders are hooded, handcuffed and dragged away. There are some lovely touches, such as uber-hyper Marisa (Amanda Randall) ordering her assistant (Jackie Brechner) to “call my children and tell them I love them.” And one scene has the stuff of classic farce, where bored Martin (Stephen Eshenbaugh) logs on to a porn site which infects every computer in the building with a fountain of filth — with Martin’s name attached. The scene is enriched by live dancing girls melting through the office walls. The play flies on such recognizable aspects of every workplace, but it flounders on the presumption that sadism is the entire cause of the agonies being described, which is what makes the farce wear out its welcome, despite Scott Werve’s fine direction of the heroic ensemble. The relentless drive for cost-cutting and efficiency is what decimates morale and makes such places so inefficient and surreal. These unaddressed, mercenary motives would be the egg whites in this soufflé, here left out of the recipe, which is why the comedy doesn’t rise to its potential. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: April 25. Continues through May 31, 2008


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