by Sam Juliano
Still basking in the glow of his successful 2008 run of Almost an Evening, an off-Broadway production that played for an encore after it’s initial run, Oscar-winning filmmaker Ethan Coen is hoping to again wow theatre goers with his second theatrical offering. Offices, like it’s predecessor, is comprised of three interrelated one-act skits that tap into Coen’s experiences of working in offices years back after finishing college. They all take place in offices or places of business and involve white-collar workers, and much like Almost an Evening, (which is similarly structured) showcases Ethan Coen’s inimitably distinct and dark comical tone.
The first segment, “Peer Review” features a disgruntled worker named Elliot, who is fired after he is accused of harassing other employees, and some sexual escapades in a female’s office. Joey Slotnick, who gave an excellent performance in Almost an Evening, again delivers the goods with a scene-stealing over-the-top, comically emotional turn, while as an executive, Cassidy, F. Murray Abraham is inflexibly wry in delivering his potent one-liners.
“Homeland Security” pokes fun at governmental bureaucracy, and features John Bedford Lloyd as Munro and C.J. Wilson as Wilten. One of the funniest skits in the piece involves a domestic scene involving a child, played by Daniel Yelsky.
The funniest of the three parts is the final one, “Struggle Season”, which features Abraham playing a “bum” who initially panhandles outside the office building, and eventually gets hired and subsequently terminated in some hysterical interchanges with his wimpy superior, played by Daniel London. The themes of insecurity, hypocrisy, and employment subterfuge are afforded a new level of meaning in Offices, which unmistakably carries the eccentric Coens imprint in the writing and characterization.
Neil Pepe’s direction is brisk, almost to point of fast forward, as Offices ended in 75 minutes, despite the 90 minute promise of the Playbill. Pepe and scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez make superlative and convincing use of simple sets to create the office environment, with a rotating stage, office cubicles, desks and ceiling overhangs. Obadiah Eaves’s original music and sound design includes effective use of ballads past and present. I particularly delighted in the ironic use of “Rosemarie.”
Linda Bauer, the costume designer, and Lighting designer David Weiner have helped to tweak this flavorless physical vision with technical aplomb, but in the end, it’s Coen’s trademark anarchism and the accomplished thespians who have made Offices a formidable off-Broadway success, and a good bet for an extended run.
Broadway Bob with F. Murray Abraham
Note: I saw ‘Offices’ on Saturday evening, April 25th at 8:00 P.M. in previews at the Linda Gross Theatre, on 20th Street, which showcases the work of the Atlantic Theatre Company. We waited for autographs and pictures and got to briefly speak with some of the stars, including F. Murray Abraham, who agreed to take a photo with Broadway Bob, with Lucille on the camera. We stopped at the View before for a beverage, and then ate dinner at our Thai haunt ‘Spice’ around the corner from the theatre and enjoyed some delectable food. For me it was ‘Volcanic Chicken’ with Pad Thai. New York City weather was in the 80’s and we found a parking space almost right in front of the theatre.