Assistance – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Joe Sykes and Morgan Pelligrino in Assistance by Leslye Headland. Photo by Drake Simons

Joe Sykes and Morgan Pelligrino in Assistance by Leslye Headland. Photo by Drake Simons

Have you ever wanted to work for Donald Trump? Maybe some of his business savvy could rub off you; perhaps the wealth. While the characters in Assistance, which is playing at Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre, don’t work for the Donald, they have the same hope. Each one works in a chaotic, stressful office, despite their unhappiness, in hopes that their own careers will advance while working for an eccentric, wealthy business man.

Whether or not you’ve had an office job, the situations in the play can be applied to any workplace. Most people have worked in an unfulfilling job, even feeling stuck where they are, just like the characters in the play. But Assistance also provides a glimpse into the world of being a personal assistant: being at someone’s beck and call all day every day, that many people have not experienced first-hand.

Written by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), the play explores the relationships and lives of six office workers and their experiences of working for the successful, yet demanding and abusive, Daniel Wiesinger, whose appearance is only on the other end of a telephone. From the ambitious to those using the system, many of the typical office workers are depicted.

The production features strong performances, particularly from the female cast members. Displaying sharp comedic timing, the cast handles the witty quips and situations with ease and even dives into entertaining physical comedy.

As Nora, Morgan Pelligrino stands out among the cast as an ambitious young worker who sacrifices her personal life for the job to only become disillusioned. She portrays the right balance of emotions, each one restrained just enough to accentuate it, but without going over the top. Likewise Mandi Lee (Jenny) gives a remarkable performance as the one who is calm under pressure and seems to have it all together.

Both Joe Sykes (Nick) and Barrett Doyle (Justin) show skill as physical comedy actors, making a difficult feat to pull off easy. Grant McGowen (Vince) and Liz Schad (Heather) round out the cast. McGowen helps paint the picture of a corporate game player doing what’s necessary to climb the corporate ladder. Schad makes the most of her stage time with a raw and honest phone conversation with her mother.

While it is entertaining in many scenes, the play’s loosely connected plot gets bogged down with insignificant details about the haphazard boss and his temperament, and it tends to rely on humor that often falls flat. Despite those issues, the story crescendos to a powerful ending that displays the primal emotion that the taxing job expels.

Directed by George Contini, Assistance plays through May 4, 2013 at Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the theatre’s website. The show’s runtime is about ninety minutes without an intermission.

– A. Wesley