It's so fitting for Livewire Chicago Theatre's production of "Assistance," a working place dramedy, written by Leslye Headland and directed by Joshua Aaron Weinstein, takes place in an office setting. Each character in the cohesive ensemble is clearly struggling to find a niche and course through the pitfalls of everyday life in the business work world. Each scene of the play is essentially a conversation at various points in one's career, from hire to fire. The play gives voice to the fears of ambitious young professionals on a journey up the corporate ladder, trying to make sense of a perfectionist,yet despotic boss. This is a play about the extraordinary challenges, when young people start out their lives, entering the workplace/ratrace, only to find out it's like entering a shark infested stream.
As the play unfolds, it's a modern day Office meets a glamorized Mad Men. The audience is privileged to see some wonderful, quite natural acting, by a troupe of actors, featuring Brian Crawford; Lauren Fisher; John Taflan; Krista D'Agostino; Matthew Nerber; and Hilary Williams, who all seem to have acting esplanade on their shoulders, way before they've even started. The show's title, "Assistance," rings true throughout - we see some who succeed in business, with much luck and perseverance, and others, without really trying, and most that don't. The show is all done in the form of one acts or vignettes, showing all sorts of situations in the workplace. The first one introduces Nick (Brian Crawford), being shown the ropes , unbeknownst to him, it is really training for a 'gopher' type administrative job. The next scene introduces the "new girl," Nora (Lauren Fisher), a fresh faced Pollyannish ingenue, full of optimism and enthusiasm, who at the onset, worships her new boss, only to find out things aren't what they seem, and at show's end, is quite frazzled, ready to call it a day. Krista D'Agostino plays Heather, a young woman prepped and pressured by family to land a dream job, and upon taking a day off to attend her uncle's funeral, faces the ultimate consequences. Of particular note is Jenny (Hilary Williams), who gives a performance with enormous style, power, and self assurance. She enters this swirling den of young professionals, all trying to succeed at all costs. The final scene, she's partying the night away, drinking up a storm, assured that the next day at the office will be 'business as usual,' although it hardly seems the case.
Headland's material is at times, touching, acutely observant of interpersonal relationships, bitingly funny, and, even in places, deeply moving. This production is an example of Chicago's storefront theatre at its best.
through March 16th
DCASE Storefront Theatre 66 E. Randolph St
Thurs. Fri. Sat. 7:30PM; Sun. 2 PM
nickandnora.brownpapertickets.com (312) 533-4666