Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Receptionist

I just saw Adam Bock's play "The Receptionist" at Portland Center Stage. It was extremely weird and darker than I had anticipated. When I heard it was an "office comedy" I thought of the TV show "The Office" and the movie "Office Space," but this play showcased the wicked sides of humanity, all encircling the receptionist Beverly's desk.
This play has mysterious and intriguing characters. Beverly is a self-righteous, unfashionable, controlling receptionist. Lorraine is Beverly's scattered, flirtatious, volatile, and lonely coworker. Together they have roller coaster conversations, rising in tension, about relationships, books, and Beverly's tea cup collection.

When handsome Mr. Dart shows up, looking for their boss, the play takes a dark turn. The audience gradually learns that this "Northeast Office," as Beverly calls it every time she answers the phone, is a vile, corrupt business, dealing with torturing people and "getting information," although what kind of information is never revealed.

I thought this play was fantastic because I love slow tension and I love it when people act in surprising, but not out-of-character ways. Beverly turns out to not be as efficient as she thought she was and Lorraine turns out to be more capable than either of them gave her credit for. In just a little over an hour, this play made me laugh several times and bite my fingernails toward the end.

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