Reviewed by Natalie Low
Have you ever been so incredibly bored at your corporate job that you just long and long for something a little exciting to happen? The Exeter University Theatre Company performs their take on this comically thrilling play written by Aaron Loeb. The play begins with a slightly cocky intern at the desk, watching a video when his boss, a slightly high-strung female, enters and demands answers as to why the meeting room has not been prepared for the upcoming session with her team of consultants. The intern is obviously more eager when the male employees enter, hanging onto almost their every word. In particular, the one charming Alpha male of the group. Things quickly take a serious turn when Alpha male calls the intern out for the clearly sexist treatment of the staff, especially since the female is technically his boss and the intern quickly gets fired. The scene is now set for the audience of the kind of play this will be.
Aaron Loeb’s writing is meant to drag you along a path you believe you know where you’re going on, and then very quickly pull you down a whole other path you did not see coming. The fast-paced style of writing is clever, thought-provoking, and funny. However, this iteration of the play is perhaps not the best way of presenting it. Perhaps it might be the difficulty of keeping American accents through this tough dialogue, but the actors seem to occasionally struggle with this play. In the effort to keeping things understandable, the fast pacing of the play takes a backseat, and you find yourself getting lost in the words of dialogue that perhaps even the actors themselves don’t seem to fully comprehend.
The one and only female performer in the group carries herself effectively, bringing the comic balance of being the leader who does not perhaps know what exactly to do. You feel for her as she struggles to keep the peace and control the chaos around her. When she gets caught up in all the crazy, you can’t help but sympathise and understand. One thing she might lack a little is perhaps chemistry with the rest of the cast. In the play, there is a secret affair that gets revealed to the audience, and while she’s meant to struggle with the decision on whether or not to go through with this secret affair, she does not seem to quite get the chemistry with the other actor.
The standout actor in this performance is the quirky and slightly awkward Ted. Unassuming to begin with, he holds on his own pretty quickly and is ready to stand up for what he believes. Particularly when we reach the climax of the play, and the employees all begin to turn on each other, he heightens himself to the leader that he always deserved to be, and reigns the chaos in. The actor does well in getting the audience to feel for him and is a wonderful physical comic when called for.
The set is designed to resemble an office conference room and is quite effective throughout. However, with the way the table has been arranged, it meant that there were occasional moments of blocking of the audience, and you don’t get to see some of the action going around the table. The lighting is simple, mainly a general wash throughout but when they have conference calls with their boss, a simple tinge of purple from the front is effective in creating that office atmosphere. The sound design is minimal, and almost forgettable.
Overall, this was a tough play to tackle, but this university theatre cast of 5 rose to the challenge, and brought a solid piece of entertainment.