EVIDENCE ROOM & ODYSSEY THEATRE
Beverly Wilkins – Megan Mullally
Lorraine Taylor – Jennifer Finnigan
Edward Raymond – Jeff Perry
Martin Dart – Chris L. McKenna
Director – Bart DeLorenzo
Scenic Designer – Chris Covics
Lighting Designer – Christopher Kuhl
Costume Designer – Ann Closs-Farley
Sound Designer – John Zalewski
Assistant Director - Mel Munroe
Stage Manager – Julianne Figueroa
Producers – Beth Hogan and Bart DeLorenzo
Graphic Design – Fred Baxter
January 25 - March 16, 2014
Los Angeles Times
As Beverly, the title character of Adam Bock’s increasingly nefarious office comedy The Receptionist, Megan Mullally is front and center and eager to put you through to voice mail. Need some supplies? Better gauge her mood before asking. And if you’re stupid enough to leave your bagel on her desk, you can be sure it’ll promptly end up in her garbage pail, with every last crumb sanitized off her counter.
The play, a co-production between Odyssey Theatre (where it’s playing) and Evidence Room, seems at first like a tediously protracted skit on the time-wasting rituals and inane co-worker banter of corporate life in America. (Chris Covics’ sterile workplace set and Ann Closs-Farley’s suburban costumes nail the milieu.) The banality, especially acute in the scenes between controlling, busybody Beverly and flirty, always-late Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan), is put forth with a deadpan that leaves a lingering satiric aftertaste.
But there’s a darker point to this slow-drip dramatization, handled with patience and a fair amount of precision by director Bart DeLorenzo, that goes beyond white-collar mockery. A malevolent twist in the proceedings – which becomes gradually evident after Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) arrives from the central office for an urgent meeting with Beverly’s boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry) – broadens our awareness of the varieties of evil complicity.
Suffice it to say that the play confronts issues that have riled the nation under George W. Bush and continue to bedevil us under Barack Obama. In terms of subject matter, the piece bears comparison with Caryl Churchill’s harrowing theater poem Far Away, a sharper written foray into the oblivious citizen heart of geopolitical darkness.
DeLorenzo’s actors succeed in not tipping their hands early on, though the minor shortcomings and ethical lapses of their characters are made humorously glaring. Finnigan scores ditsy laughs as the romantically avaricious blond. McKenna’s Martin, married with a kid at home, beams a good-guy grin revealing a hint of randy readiness. Mr. Raymond, halting and distracted in his opening monologue, seems embroiled in an all-consuming midlife crisis.
But Bock’s risky dramatic stratagem depends chiefly on an actress who can make Beverly’s blinkered ordinariness completely identifiable. And Mullally, sacrificing the glamorous pop of her two-time Emmy-winning role on Will & Grace, subsumes herself wholly into this aging wife and mom with stuffed animals and a raccoon folder on her desk, an unpaid phone bill waiting for her at home and stiff joints that won’t allow her to rush even the simplest of coffee-making tasks.
Watching Beverly idly natter to family and friends between business calls as the moral world systematically destructs around her, I couldn’t help wondering what Mullally would do with Winnie from Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. Her work here is so perfectly in tune with the rest of the solid ensemble and Bock’s tricky vision that it runs the risk of disappointing her TV fan base, who might prefer her unleashing punch lines in that snarky nasal way that has become her signature. But for those who care about contemporary playwriting with a socially-engaged edge, the performance throws lustrous light on her integrity as an actor-artist while delivering the ambushing horror of Bock's topical parable. – Charles McNulty
There are, of course, the people who do all those things. You know, those things that are going on right now while we try not to think about them. And then there are the support staffers who make their livings serving them faithfully, protecting them, ignoring the nature of the job because it’s a job. Adam Bock’s play focuses on just such a person. We get to see exactly who she is, thanks to Bock’s beautifully specific writing, the exquisitely detailed direction of Bart DeLorenzo, and the stellar work of Megan Mullally in the title role. Exactly what that office does is cleverly left up to our imaginations.
The play opens with a monologue by Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), who is speaking of hunting animals and finding the most humane way of killing them. The setting switches to an office, where Beverly the receptionist holds court. She and staffer Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan) spend most of their time talking about romance, so we’re blithely assuming that boyfriends and husbands are the hunted animals. And they are, but not in the way we expected. We’re a long way into this 75-minute play when Mr. Raymond returns to drop a bombshell into the conversation.
Just as Beverly lives and breathes her job and fills it with urgency and value, Mullally does so with Beverly, living fully in the space and adding such appealing details as a thick New Jersey accent, the stiff walk of a woman who spends all day in an uncomfortable chair, and the short haircut combed precisely into place and polished to a sheen every morning.
Perry takes a tightly wound turn as the boss whose task seems to have gone awry; is his character evidencing a bit of fear, or are we reading fear into his situation? Chris L. McKenna plays the visitor from the main office as so perfectly pleasant, so quickly menacing. Finnigan plays Lorraine as perkily wrapped up in her personal life; ah, but what does she do back in those never-seen offices?
DeLorenzo helps us digest the enigmatic script, even if he won’t give us a visual hint in the wryly generic office space. Not that we could stomach watching as business is done. But this is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of darkness. – Dany Margolies