Friday, June 14, 2013
Theater review: Ochre House’s goofy Good Nuts plays up the giddy laughs
It's not the most trenchant in its Absurdist themes, but amusing no less.
Good Nuts is playwright Kevin Grammer’s broad satire debunking the notion that diligence, perseverance, integrity, and responsibility are what it takes to succeed in the workplace. As Grammer and anyone with passing experience can tell you, office politics, schmoozing, cronyism, character assassination ... all these factors can have far more impact on job security than anything as trivial as dependability, performance, skill, or dedication. Grammer takes this discouraging insight an extra step, placing his young hero in an office so corrupt, deranged, depraved, and vile, none but the desperate or pathological would last the first day.
Referred to by his colleagues only as “the Worker,” our protagonist rolls out of bed, ready to do whatever it takes to make a good impression. Not long after he reports for duty, the degradation begins. He’s informed that his only purpose is to follow instructions, never to think or feel. He’s sabotaged, attacked, groped, and harassed. In one of the particularly hilarious moments, our hero grabs the phone for The Receptionist, who is masturbating in the next room, vociferously. “She’ll be here in a minute. She’s coming.” No matter how hard he tries, The Office Manager (a blonde, dominating harpy) screams at him for getting it wrong. Video teleconferences with The President are exercises in insanity. He keeps changing nationalities (French, German, Italian, British) and demanding they provide him with “good nuts,” never explaining what he means by this. Whenever it’s clear our intrepid newbie (contemptuously referred to as “Little Bunny Foo-Foo”) is close to packing it in, they dangle his benefits package in front of him and mention the bad economy.
As we might expect, the shenanigans and over-the-top hijinks happening at this generic office (the phone’s always answered for a different business) make it impossible to take anything too seriously, though there’s a menacing subtext. Like much Absurdist humor, it has the grain of truth, it‘s thematic undercurrent. (All employment is veiled servitude.) The kind of loopy, giddy farce reminiscent of Alice’s tea party with The Mad Hatter and The March Hare is more challenging than one might imagine. Tone is everything. Episodes must become autonomous, transcending narrative to resonate on a deeper level. The power behind Mamet’s brilliant Sexual Perversity in Chicago comes from the sad accuracy behind the excess. Good Nuts is less trenchant, but nonetheless, playful goofy pleasure. Like Monty Python or Benny Hill we can relax, let go and giggle at the improbable silliness of it all.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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