Feature

Stage: The Receptionist

Seventy-five minutes in to Adam Bock&rsquo;s &ldquo;postmodern comedy turned paranoid chiller," the ordinary world of the receptionist, played by Megan Mullally of <em>Will &amp; Grace</em> fame, spirals "int

Odyssey TheatreLos Angeles(310) 477-2055

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Playwright Adam Bock’s The Receptionist is a “postmodern comedy turned paranoid chiller, said Bob Verini in Variety. Megan Mullally, best known for her role as Karen on TV’s Will & Grace, stars here as Bev, a secretary whose “chirpy phone manner and memory for staff birthdays masks the need for utter control.” For much of the play, little is revealed about what’s actually transpiring at the Northeast branch of Bev’s nameless company. We see Bev—with her “stuffed animals, Purell, and a raccoon calendar on her desk”—sorting the mail, making coffee, and engaging in hilarious phone conversations, of which we only hear her half. Seventy-five minutes in, a visit by a representative from the central office reveals “a hint of the firm’s real business”—one that sends the play “spiraling into Kafka country.”

“A risky dramatic stratagem,” this late shift in tone depends on an actress who can make audiences identify with Bev’s “blinkered ordinariness,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. On that front, Mullally delivers. Her subtle performance “runs the risk of disappointing her TV fan base,” which is accustomed to watching her deliver punch lines “in that snarky nasal way that has become her signature.” But it’s more interesting to watch Bev “idly natter to family and friends between business calls as the moral world systematically destructs around her.”

The rest of the cast is equally “first-rate,” said Jonas Schwartz in Theatermania.com. As Bev’s flirty co-worker Lorraine, Jennifer Finnigan is marvelous, delivering descriptions of the play’s emergent atrocities “with blackly humorous nonchalance.” Jeff Perry has only a few scenes as Bev’s boss, Mr. Raymond, “but his jittery paranoia prepares us for Bock’s final reveal.” And as Mr. Dart, the visitor from the company’s central office, Chris McKenna stuns when his calm demeanor quickly shifts into one of “pure brutality.” Kudos to director Bart DeLorenzo for perfectly melding “the mundane with the menacing.”­ This must be what the philosopher Hannah Arendt meant by the “banality of evil.”

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