Assistance @ Playwrights Horizons, through March 11th
Have you ever had a boss you despised so much that you thought about quitting your job Jerry Maguire style? We’ve all been there. The long hours, the constant humiliation, and the promise that may never happen to move up in corporate America are all a part of what makes the new comedy, Assistance, candidly truthful. This ferociously biting, satire, by Leslye Headland, depicts the lives of corporate assistants and their attraction to power. In a canny dramatist move, we never see the CEO of the company on stage, and we never find out what type of business this company is affiliated with. However we hear and feel their bosses slew of insults that spreads around like a rapidly growing cyst that you want to get rid of but can’t. What makes this sharply written play work is the honest yet comedic depiction of troubled relationships, loss of hope, and sanity, due to the sacrifices they make in order to move up. Leslye Headland’s skill for viciously entertaining dialogue emerges crisply under the direction of Trip Cullman.
The cast of vibrant actors keeps the play on its feet. The energetic and amazingly talented cast takes the time to encompass what it’s like to be an assistant. They attack their job as if their life depends on it, but come to find they are victims swimming with sharks. Each character takes a break from being an assistant to become people we sympathize with. They effectively express their wanting to leave their job due to the emotional toll it has taken on them. Each monologue during those moments is relatable, and you begin to feel how human they are. At the same time you begin to understand why they don’t want to leave their job, as each character’s story unfolds. Michael Esper (Nick) embodies his slacker, jokester, character with subtle comedic intensity. He easily emanates charisma, but readily brings out the worst in his character. Virginia Kull (Nora) is earnest and fragile. Her frustration shines during those emotional moments. Sue Jean Kim (Heather) is sweet and zany. Her comical performance radiates when her character confesses to her parents she got fired from her job. Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Vince) gives heat in his performance as the dishonest, and incompetent, assistant. Bobby Steggert (Justin) gives a sincere, and impressing, performance as the assistant who breaks up with his therapist so he can avoid his reality. Amy Rosoff (Jenny) is convincing as the assistant who seems to have everything together right until the explosive end when her talent shows more of her excellence.
Chaos unravels and the assistants encounter every outlandish problem imaginable. Each scenario leads to a breaking point, especially towards the explosively surprising end. With its fast pacing and intense mood the play captures the desire to be successful under a man they want to be, but who’s not worth being.
Assistance runs at Playwrights Horizon Mainstage Theater (416 West 42nd Street) through March 11th. For more information, please visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/mainstage.asp.