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Monday, March 31, 2008

Review- Office Hours (Phare Play Production)

The Fab Marquee review by Antonio Miniño.

Phare Play Production proves to be an artistic busy bee. With their current production of Ghosts, they also present to us Office Hours by Norm Foster (not to mention they have a production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia lined up in May). Office Hours is a group of six vignettes that take place in a different office on a Friday afternoon. Mr. Foster takes us on a comic ride with 13 characters that we can’t help but see ourselves reflected in, and the journey is pure hackling fun.

Katie McConaghy as Ellie Young &
Nicholas Masson as Mark Young.

At first you might think a desperate producer, an overweight jockey and a figure skater, just to mention a few of the characters, have nothing in common. But the success of Norm Foster’s piece lies in the interconnection of the stories. What sometimes seems as a repetitive tool to tie these stories together (a shiny new leather bound week-at-a-glance, a romance novel and a race horse), turns out being a well thought out amusing element to the blossoming reveal. Even though we have it figured out from scene one (as the production expresses on the show’s description), it’s still a mirthful journey.

The highlights of the evening for this humble theatergoer were the crisp and humorous performances by most of the cast, wonderfully orchestrated by director Christine Vinh. Beth Adler’s comic timing was precise as clockwork. Miss Adler plays Rhonda Penny, an oppressive mother and wife, who deals with her sarcastic husband (well played by Edward Monterosso), and her two sons; a gay entertainment lawyer and a suicidal straight figure skater (both played by the zestful Christopher James Cramer).

Michael Weems as Stan Thurber &
Blake Bradford as Artie Barnes.

Blake Bradford proves to be a master in the art of comedy and improv. His portrayal as the desperate producer Gordon Blanes and the overweight jockey Artie Barnes left me gasping for air between cackles and tears. I’ll make sure to attend future productions graced by Mr. Bradford.

Nora Vetter, Katie McConaghy, Michael Weems and Nicholas Masson form the rest of the hard working ensemble.

The minor hitches of this production have to do with first performance nuances. Some of the momentum was lost in a couple of the skits, and the cast seemed to lose focus with the responsive and engaged audience. Not to worry, Mr. Foster’s material, and this energetic cast, can only get tighter and finer. If you want to experience what smart comedies are made of, you should definitely see this show.

Phare Play Productions presents
Norm Foster’s
Office Hours
directed by Christine Vinh
March 30-April 6, 2008
American Theatre of Actors
Schedule: Sun, March 30 – Tue, April 1 @ 8pm; Sat, April 5 @ 3pm; Sun, April 6 @ 8pm
Tickets: $20.00; Reservations: (646)241-0823, online purchase

American Theatre of Actors | Beckmann Theatre | 314 West 54th St | Manhattan.

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