"The Receptionist" (Steep Theatre): Comedy Turns Thriller

"The Receptionist" (Steep Theatre):  Comedy Turns Thriller

#79.  In meetings, I like to take the seat facing the door.  I enter the conference room quickly and mark my territory with my well-known coffee mug.  With my back to the wall and facing the unknown, I’m ready for whatever may go down.  It’s part paranoia and part fantasy escape.  Sometimes, the only thing helping me get through a dull work day is the potential for it not to be.

Steep Theatre presents the Midwest Premiere of THE RECEPTIONIST.  Beverly is the receptionist at a small office.  From her vantage point, she handles calls, birthday cakes and relationship mayhem.  Beverly is the gatekeeper to the internal-workings of the office.  No one gets a pen or access without her blessing.  Her self-appointed authority ensures office routine continues without disruption.  She knows everything that is going on.  Or does she?  And is that a good thing or a bad thing?  When Central Office shows up without an appointment, Beverly’s day takes an unexpected turn. THE RECEPTIONIST is hilariously pedestrian until it sprints into a thriller.

THE RECEPTIONIST is like seeing the movie “Memento” in the correct sequence. The edginess is removed making it a little more unsettling. The ordinariness engages from the start.  Scenic Designer Stephen Harold Carmody perfectly re-creates an office reception area right down to the framed fire route by the door.  The realism makes me pause with a did-I-come-to-work?-Or-come-to-a-play? quandary.  It’s this surreal illusion that I settle in for a chuckle as I watch life unfold at this office.  I know this receptionist.  I’ve lived this routine.  Playwright Adam Bock lulls me into a cocoon of familiarity with witty dialogue and office gossip.  Then, Bock strips off the work casual to expose true vulnerability.  It’s unsettling!

Under the direction of Joannie Schultz, the talented cast is riveting. Their authentic office antics makes me want to see this play again knowing the outcome.  Were there preliminary signs of office upheaval?   Handling the calls and drama, Cheryl Roy (Beverly) is an outstanding busybody.  Roy is superiorly smug until she is usurped and then she’s a weeping basketcase.  Caroline Neff plays self-involved colleague skank-iciously!  It’s all about her!  Neff flirts and whines with shameless intensity.  Peter Moore is a mysteriously charming stranger.  A guileless Moore stuns with seemingly out-of-character forcefulness.

Steep Theatre is known for in-your-face moxie.  Usually within the first couple of scenes, an occurrence has plummeted the audience into a Steep-went-there disbelief.  This time it's a slow burn for post show lingering disquietness.  THE RECEPTIONIST welcomes you into her jocular workplace.  It’s all fun and games until it’s not!

Production photo courtesy of Lee Miller

Running Time:  Seventy-five minutes with no intermission.

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn

Written by Adam Bock

Directed by Joanie Schultz

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Thru May 19th

Buy Tickets at www.steeptheatre.com

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