By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"May I put you into his voicemail?" The title character in Adam Bock's one-act thriller The Receptionist asks it in a tone both friendly and impersonal. With the well-honed fake sincerity of company front-desk guardians everywhere, Beverly Wilkins dispatches callers into the limbo-land of the phone system. Her boss at the generic-sounding "northeast office" is away from his desk. No, she doesn't know when he'll be back. And into his voicemail they go.
For the first half-hour of this 2005 play, now onstage in the last of WaterTower Theatre's studio space "Discovery Series," Beverly, played by Nancy Sherrard (last seen here in Doubt), deftly juggles dozens of personal and business calls. Punching between multiple lines, she consoles friends, counsels a daughter, chides her husband for spending phone bill money on his teacup collection and directs all business inquiries into voicemail as quickly as possible. It's funny like The Office and Office Space, Beverly guarding the good pens so closely she marks on her calendar when she loans one out.
Expert at looking busy but eager for diversion, Beverly starts shallow chats with Lorraine (Jennifer Pasion), a perpetually late-arriving co-worker who unloads dating woes over coffee and pastries. They're both intrigued by a handsome visitor, Mr. Dart (Robert McCollum), who seems to be an executive type from the important-sounding "central office." Lorraine flirts even after finding out he's married and a dad.
Mommie Queerest continues through July 12 at The Rose Room at Station 4. Call 214-219-2718.
The Receptionist continues through June 21 at WaterTower Theatre, Addison. Call 972-450-6232.
The light banter of the first half of this play evaporates with one searing line of dialogue uttered by Mr. Raymond (Randy Pearlman) when he finally blusters into the office. After that, nothing's funny, just confusing. Who are these people? What is this "northeast office"?
Bock doesn't answer the questions, and this production, directed by Marianne Galloway, so rushes the build-up to the big turning point that it zips past the playwright's intent, even if it is an obvious one, to redefine the banality of evil. Just when we're getting dialed in to The Receptionist, we're sent away without the chance to get its message.