The story evolves in an anteroom adjacent to the headquarters of the writers of a hit (but shit) TV series, and centers on the dreams and desperation of its underlings: not the writers’ personal assistants but the assistants to those assistants. The lead character, Phraz (Tony DeCarlo), is an angry guy who despises his boss, Whisk (Gina Garcia-Sharp), a demanding and persnickety person who interrogates him about what he threw in the trash and requires (inexplicably) that he labor to turn an old television console into a birdcage.
Phraz works with Barney (Keith Hanson), a married man only marginally better adjusted than himself; both men are wannabe screenwriters looking to “write their way out” of the low-on-the-ladder position they find themselves in. For Phraz, the horizon holds a sliver of hope: A playwriting project he’s put together with Travis (Will McFadden), a former co-worker, reportedly has garnered the interest of the Geffen Playhouse.
Now here’s the twist: Phraz has a counterpart, Frasz (Troy Blendell), who is as genial, trusting and tactful as Phraz is volcanic and blunt. The two occupy the same office and have the same job description. Each works directly under a woman (Frasz loves his boss, though) and has a colleague he bounces things off of. Throughout, the narrative shifts back and forth, paralleling the characters’ emotional ups and downs, even contrasting a phone call to their respective families (Phraz is brusquely rejected when he requests a loan while Frasz is offered one without even asking).
So are Phraz and Frasz alter egos? Is one a figment of the other’s imagination? It’s never clear, but trust me: It ultimately doesn’t matter. Kiyomura’s script is funny, incisive and insightful — one of those narratives that traverses absurdity yet never loses connection with actual human behavior.
DeCarlo paints Phraz a couple of shades larger than life, a choice that can be jarring but here works to brilliant effect: He is a dynamo in performance. As the diffident Frasz, Blendell artfully serves up the perfect foil. Garcia-Sharp’s quintessential studio harridan devolves splendidly into a weepy mass of injured feelings. And Andrea Ruth as Betty, Frasz’s sold-down-the-river officemate, anchors the play as the down-to-earth victim of other people’s smarmy ambitions.
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