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Monday, August 24, 2009

Review- The Office and The Metal Blob (FringeNYC)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

Take one part The Office, one part Office Space, a smidgen of Dilbert, a dash of Brazil (the movie, not the country), a whisper of the "Mr. Roboto" video, a little of the Schrödinger's Cat Thought Experiment, a shake of What the Bleep Do We Know!?, put in a little Stomp, give it all to a cast with a talent for musical comedy and top it all off with a Metal Blob named Roxanne and what do you get? You get a musical, wrapped in a comedy, hidden in a satire, standing behind an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery. Basically, it's the recipe for one really fun night.

The Office and the Metal Blob (conceived and directed by Andrew Scoville) starts off with GEM (Preston Martin) explaining how he is here to tell the story of "The Father" and how the world came to be the way it is now, all because of the time the Metal Blob (now in the form of Roxanne [Barrie McLain]) came to descend upon the CTC. It's all a little confusing in the beginning but soon enough we're taken back (by way of holograph, we're told) to Cleartron Corporation (The CTC) where it all began.

It's hard not to like all these odd ball characters who inhabit this strange, half futuristic, half retro office setting, a place where everything is done according to the policy, and everyone has their very specific role. The office workers introduce themselves to the audience in that very rhythmic children's school yard way..."Hi My Name Is Alex And I Work At The CTC...(I can't get it out of my head). There's the usual round up of weirdoes: the germophobe Edna (Elizabeth Alderfer) who's having an affair with the harried husband, Viktor (Ilya Khodosh), the lonely single woman Janice (Kate Weber) who lives alone with her 2 cats and has a lot of free time on her hands, the lesbian Asian chess player, Kimberly Kim (Nikki Calonge), the straight Asian nerdy guy Alex (Yung-I Chang), and finally the "Father" Reggie (Stephen Arnocyzy)...a man obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder and turning his co-workers into robots.

While this office holds most of the mundane bits that all offices hold (themed casual Fridays, a secret office affair) it also has a bit of the odd to it - packages that fall from the sky, a workday that seems to be choreographed by Busby Berkeley by way of AT&T and..oh yeah...A mysterious metal blob.

When this blob arrives on the scene each office worker immediately wants some alone time with it and gets their own crazy musical number devoted to their exploration of it. Each worker interprets it as something which can complete them in some way; give them what they need - be it companionship (Janice sees it as a baby, Kim sees it as a giant nipple), a portal (Edna and Vick think it can transport them to lovely Sweden where no wife, kids or germs can follow them), or an answer (Alex hears it telling him to kill everyone in the office and then kill himself, Reggie understands that he must put it on his head and use it as a mechanism to turn his other co-workers into robots, thus becoming CEO of the CTC.). Since this is a play about quantum reality, 3 alternate endings are shown, but ultimately the one which wins is the only one which COULD have happened, or else GEM wouldn't be here telling the story.

Full of great musical numbers written by Corey Michener, broad comedy, a hugely talented cast who are obviously great at improv (when an AV problem caused a small part of the video to go without sound the cast ad-libbed quickly and hilariously) and unique media design (Kate Freer and David Tennent). I found myself completely caught up in the fun of this play.

A good mark of any successful show is when the audience leaves the theatre humming the last song. I always felt it was a bit of a cheat when I saw big Broadway shows reprise their flashiest numbers at the end just to send the audience out into the streets in a good mood. That wasn't necessary with The Office and The Metal Blob. All the songs were catchy, and the last song was so good that I was humming it all the way home. If they had been selling the soundtrack in the lobby, I certainly would have bought it.

In a season where a lot of the Fringe shows I'm seeing are a bit on the down side, it's really nice to see something fun, and done so well.

The New York International Fringe Festival
The Centerfuge presents
The Office and The Metal Blob
The Cherry Lane Theater

Final performance Friday, August 28th at 9:15pm. For tickets visit

The Cherry Lane Theater | 38 Commerce Street | Manhattan.

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