BWW Reviews: Hilarious ASSISTANCE Cast Provides Cure For Case of the Mondays at Pinch 'N' Ouch

By: Apr. 13, 2013
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How many times, at 1:27 on a Saturday morning, have you, in between handfuls of Cool Ranch Doritos, wished that someone would make a sequel to the 1999 movie classic "Office Space?" Well, put down the Red Bull, because you are in luck! A new tale of hilarious, and sometimes depressing, life on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder is now playing at Atlanta's Pinch 'N' Ouch Theatre. The regional premiere of Leslye Headland's "Assistance", directed by George Contini, runs through May 4th. The stellar young cast plays the farcically cartoonish co-workers with a reckless comedic abandon, reminiscent of a profane cable sitcom.

"Assistance" chronicles the work lives of a handful of assistants trying to please their evil boss, Daniel Weisinger, who never makes an appearance. The longer an assistant puts up with Weisinger's unrealistic demands, the more neurotic they become. Chief amongst the assistants are subtly insecure Nick and adorably devoted Nora. Played by Joe Sykes and Morgan Pelligrino, the pair has a magnetic chemistry as they exchange fast, hyper-stylized dialogue in between (and when on mute, while) answering the phones. The relationship between the pair grows from professional to romantic to oddly codependent as the show progresses. With all of their idiosyncrasies, I'm not sure that I ever completely liked them as individuals, but I sure was rooting for them as a pair by the end. If Sykes and Pelligrino are representative of the next generation of Atlanta theatrical talent, we are all in good hands.

Also populating the "Assistance" office are Pinch 'N' Ouch Producing Artistic Director Grant McGowen as the recently promoted, and rather unlikeable, Vince; Liz Schad as the nervous and wide-eyed Heather; Mandi Lee as the calm and calculating Brit, Jenny; and Barrett Doyle as the long-suffering semi-sadist Justin. In between the show's main scenes, each of these assistants delivers a hilarious and insightful monologue. Combined with Nick and Nora's slow soul-draining slide, each actor gives a nuanced and entertaining character study.

The show's biggest draw back is in it's lack of a larger dramatic conflict. There are smaller conflicts between assistants trying to one-up each other; there are conflicts between the stable of assistants and the unseen, unheard Weisinger; and, most rewardingly, there are conflicts that each assistant has within him or herself. One of the main constructs of "Assistance" is that the multi-millionaire boss only appears via telephone calls that only the assistants can hear through their headsets. Even if it was via speaker phone, or in one of the vignettes between scenes, if the audience could appreciate the awfulness to which Weisinger subjects his assistants, it would raise the stakes on what they must endure to grab the gold ring. Headland apparently recognized this difficulty and is looking to remedy it in the show's next incarnation.

"Assistance" is playwright Headland's third play in her "Seven Deadly Sins" cycle; lampooning corporate greed. The second play, "Bachelorette", which focuses on the gluttony of an impending wedding, was made into the 2012 film of the same name starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Rebel Wilson. Additionally, last month, NBC picked up Headland's pilot version of "Assistance." The new sitcom will star Krysten Ritter ("Don't Trust the B*tch in Apartment 23"), and stage and screen vet Alfred Molina is rumored to be playing Weisinger. Coincidently (or not), Headland once served as an assistant to film-mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Despite its dramatic short-comings, the ready and able Pinch 'N' Ouch cast makes "Assistance" a hilarious 90 minutes of fun, especially for anyone who has ever worked long hours in a cubicle. To purchase tickets call 1-800-838-3006, or visit their website.

Photo: Joe Sykes, Morgan Pelligrino
Photo Credit: Drake Simons


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