Corporation of the absurd

Undermain looks at the culture of business through a fun-house mirror

Mattei uses modern office equipment to illustrate the chaos of this seminar without meaning, this event without end. Each time the phone rings, it throws the group into a tizzy. You can see them thinking: "If I answer it, will I be admitting I'm less important? I'll let someone else answer it," and so on, until the phone rings a dozen times. Anything can paralyze these folks as they try to second-guess each other and plot a course of action for something as simple as answering the phone.

Often the use of props is surreal. At one point Erwin walks a broken cellular phone as if it is a dog on a leash, and Owens follows it hungrily like a race horse following a carrot or a dog following a bone. Toward the end of the meeting, the general air of deterioration and lack of fresh thought is marked by Lenaghen and Millegan playing table hockey across the faux marble conference table with rolled-up paper as pucks and cellular phones as the goal lines. Exhaustion sets in, and finally there is little energy left to discern interior motives or exchange barbs.

Mattei, who has also written for the soap opera "All My Children" and Nickelodeon, has a way with words and a flair for comedy. He has obviously spent time with some of these corporate types, clawing up the unsteady ladders of firms and agencies held by holding companies and limited partnerships. Yet all these antics aren't quite enough to sustain an evening, because once the audience gets into the groove we are never really shocked or surprised. Mattei needs to break out of his own rut of a structure for this send-up of corporate America to be cathartic and for Tiny Dimes to succeed.

Tiny Dimes runs through February 25. For ticket information, call the Undermain Theatre Box Office at 747-5515.

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