Megan Mullally as Beverly Wilkins, The Receptionist
Photo: Odyssey Theater/Evidence Room Theater 2009
While Adam Bock’s recent play The Receptionist
doesn’t necessarily add something new to the banality-of-evil genre of plays, it does accomplish a number of things that make it worth seeing. Currently, Bock’s play, which ran in New York in 2007, is being staged in a tight and worthwhile production at L.A.’s one-and-only Odyssey Theater in conjunction with another of L.A.’s great local independent collective, the Evidence Room Theater. The collaboration has put together a first rate cast starring among others Megan Mullally in the title role of Beverly Wilkins, a Midwestern office receptionist in an unnamed business that could be about anywhere in today’s office working world. It’s a big part, and the play relies heavily on Mullally to milk laughs from the everyday conversations, activities, and cultural norms of the 9-to-5 world many of us inhabit including water cooler gossip, personal phone calls, birthday parties and all the other things we do when we should be doing something else. And she does an expert job in this. It’s a real testament to her acting skills and Bart DeLorenzo’s direction that Mullally avoids any of the leery cynicism that won her major fame on television. Beverly Wilkins, the receptionist, is about the small gesture and too much sly self-awareness could easily crumble the whole show. Instead things bubble along in a world that is very familiar, but at the same time very funny. In fact the play’s main shock is when that normalcy of ignored work actually does rear its very ugly head in an oblique and off-handed manner. But some things, once said, can never be taken back.
Still for 70 minutes worth of play, Bock’s little tale still runs the risk of stretching thin. If there is a particular weakness of The Receptionist
, it’s that when all is said and done, it’s a one trick pony. Granted a good trick and a well done one. But like the child’s magic trick—one you’ve seen how it works—it’s unlikely to be quite so interesting the next time around. It’s far from a dull evening, however. The rest of the cast includes Jennifer Finnigan as the relationship-challenged Lorraine, Jeff Perry as their boss Mr. Raymond, and Chris L. McKenna as an unexpected visitor from the central office. All are solid and believable foils in a play that is increasingly unbelievable. But that, too, is a world we live in and as The Receptionist
reminds us, that may be the scariest thing of all. The show runs through the 20th of September.
Labels: LA Theater Reviews