Sunday, February 12, 2012


"Assistance" at Playwrights Horizons, February 9, 2012

Traveling familiar ground, the latest offering at the very consistent Playwrights Horizons is Leslye Headland's Assistance, about the struggling underclass of capitalist serfs, suffering at the hands of an unseen tyrant.  In this case the invisible antagonist is Daniel Weisinger, a highly volatile agent/representative (Barry Diller-like, perhaps?) in an unnamed industry, who wields fear, loathing and admiration from a series of put-upon administrative assistants.  At the top of the play, Vince, a slick and smarmy Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, celebrates the last day of his sentence before stepping up into a coveted "director" role (also undefined).  Following him up the corporate ladder is Nick, a likable Michael Esper, who takes on the part of chief torturer among the cadre of assistants.  Advancement comes at a high price.  Even Vince has to knuckle under to Daniel vagaries in his last moments as servant.

The "new meat" in the office is Nora, a sympathetic Virginia Kull, transferring over from the Siberia that is the "Canal Street office."  Like many before and after her, she's set her sights on duplicating, if not exceeding, the heights of fame and fortune achieved by her idolized boss.  It's a quick trip to disillusionment and jaded cynicism for her, as she takes her own lumps, as well as those belonging to others.  Beleaguered Justin, a very strong Bobby Steggert, spends most of the evening on the other end of the telephone, but shows up in Act II, after a typical "Daniel rant" lands him with a broken foot.

Heather (Sue Jean Kim) and Jenny, a very funny Amy Rosoff, round out the later victims, each getting a chance to take focus during funny, if distracting, monologues.  The relationship ups and downs between and among them aren't really surprising ("Nick & Nora" really?), as they try to maintain sanity while working for a lunatic.

Like I said, the terrain is quite familiar after "The Devil Wears Prada."  But this time, we don't get the benefit of seeing the villain in action.  The result is an extended sit-com, and could have easily filled a 30-minute slot with the same effect.

Director Trip Cullman moves things quickly, enhancing the sit-comish feel to the super-slick dialogue.  Jenny's final monologue does offer some interesting and unexpected quirks, but it's a long time coming.  David Korins' set succinctly and cleverly captures the essence of a hip, NYC office space.

Assistance runs through March 7.  See discount information in a previous post, along with a link to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Discount Ticket Offer - "Assistance"


Regular run:  February 3-March 11
Tues 7, Wed-Fri at 8, Sat at 2:30 & 8, Sun at 2:30 & 7:30
Additional Monday evening perf February 27 at 7

Order by Feb. 21 and use the code HELPMEBLOG
$40 (reg. $70) for all performances Feb 3-19
$50 (reg. $70) for all other performances Feb 21-Mar 11

Call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 Noon to 8PM daily
In Person: Ticket Central Box Office, 416 W. 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Avenues
30&Under Party February 16 following the performance
All non-member tickets $25.  Use code PARTY.  Proof of age required at door.
Order at
"Psycho Therapy" at Cherry Lane Theatre, February 6, 2012

In its return to regular programming for the 2011-2012 season, Cherry Lane Theatre brings us Frank Strausser's new comedy.  It's a bit fluffy, and could easily have been adapted into an episode of Frasier.  Actually, that might have been a better idea.

In this intermissionless, 90 minute, four-hander, we meet early-middle-aged Lily (Angelica Page), torn between the good-on-paper Philip (Laurence Lau) and the much younger and significantly richer Dorian (Jeffrey Carlson), all during couples therapy with psychologist Nancy (Jan Leslie Harding). Neuroses abound, from Nancy's chocolate fetish, to Lily's inability to choose, to Philip's fear of commitment to Dorian's fear of being alone.

Performances are generally even, but hampered by the two-dimensional writing.  For some unexplored reason, Lily is incapable of standing by a choice for more than three minutes, absurdly flip-flopping between the guys multiple times within a scene.  Ms. Harding's Nancy is the only performance that reaches for a third dimension as she flails over raising a teenaged daughter.

Whoever directed (unlisted in the playbill) pulls for the physical laughs instead of trying to mine the script, though that's a fairly shallow resource.

Production values are excellent; a gorgeous set by Michael V. Moore and solid lighting by Jeff Croiter.  If the script had met the bar set by these elements, it could have been a great night at the theatre.  Instead, it's an evening of little substance, but a couple of laughs.

Psycho Therapy runs through February 25.  Get tickets here.

Post updated 02/08/2012