Review: ASSISTANCE Takes the Horrible Boss/Mistreated Underling Dynamic to a Whole New (and Funny) Level, at Theatre Vertigo

By: Oct. 21, 2016
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The next time you're getting ready for work, take a moment to be grateful that your boss is not Daniel Weisinger, the super-rich, super-entitled boss who sucks the life out of one assistant after another in Leslye Headland's ASSISTANCE, now playing at Theatre Vertigo. The play is a sarcastic and funny look at the worst bits of modern office life, and the people on which that life takes its toll.

At the beginning of the play, Nora shows up for her first day on the job as an assistant to Daniel Weisinger (a man who never appears and whose actual business is unclear). She's bought a new outfit for the occasion and is thrilled to be working for someone she greatly admires. Then she discovers what working for Daniel actually means -- long hours, constant stress, and frequent abuse from a boss who treats everyone in the office with disdain, but would be completely helpless without them.

For anyone who's ever had a crappy office job, ASSISTANCE might feel a little too familiar. The various assistants (a total of six) all come into the office with grand ambitions, and then end up stuck doing a thankless job in a small, windowless office surrounded by ever-growing stacks of paperwork. Nothing really happens -- at least nothing of consequence. It's the type of place where you could just slowly go crazy.

The script is often bitter, often biting, and occasionally just chaos (people talking over one another on call after call after call). Theatre Vertigo's production, directed by Brenan Dwyer, makes the most of it, bringing out both the funny and the sad parts in relatively equal measure.

I mentioned in my last review of a Theatre Vertigo production that I've enjoyed R. David Wyllie's performance more each time I see him. This remains true. As Nick (who becomes the first assistant after Vince gets promoted), Wyllie is great, especially when he's trying to keep a stiff upper lip while being brow-beaten by Daniel. My heart went out to Jenn Hunter as Heather -- a bumbling, but well-meaning assistant who doesn't last very long in such an unforgiving place. And Clara-Liis Hillier as Jenny -- let me just say that the last 10 minutes of this play are pretty epic.

Overall, I liked ASSISTANCE. It's weird and funny, and I enjoyed how it played with different office archetypes, which many of us encounter every day.

ASSISTANCE runs at The Shoebox Theatre through November 12. More details and tickets here.


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