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Theater Review: "Copy" At The Theatre Of NOTE

Sara Itkis |
May 12, 2012 | 1:25 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

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Nicholas Sayaan)
“Sometimes the nonsensical things are the ones that make the most sense.” Brad the Adventurer (Stephen Simon) says something along these lines during the first act of the play, and it is this idea that underlies Padraic Duffy’s absurdist office comedy, “Copy.” When it comes to absurdist drama, it has the potential for providing much humor and sadness, while illuminating concepts about the human condition that a more realist play would perhaps not be able to touch upon with the same clarity. However, it also holds the danger of losing any semblance of both storytelling and higher purpose. “Copy,” written by Padraic Duffy, sways between pointless rambling and beautiful clarity, dabbling in both, but never quite settling at either end. 

Taking place in the office of a company whose purpose no one is sure of, “Copy” follows the six employees (not counting the cardboard interns) as they search for purpose, love, and tuna sandwiches. Theo (Phil Ward), wearing a shabby suit, greying hair and sad, sad puppy eyes, wanders into the office in order to make photocopies of a picture of his dead cat. There, he meets Wendy (Cat Davis), the peppy one who says what she thinks—sometimes through a spontaneous musical number; the Boss (Troy Blendell), with the wandering mind; Betty (Gabby Sanalitro), the wistful one; and Brad (Stephen Simon), the strapping swashbuckler. None of them have anything better to do, so they take Theo in. They are quickly joined by the sexy new temp, Bed (Lauren Letherer), whom everyone wants to bed. Simon steals the show as Brad, with his khaki shorts, exotic mustache, and booming voice. He sees himself as the heroic figure of the tiny office, and spends his free time dissecting sounds. His chemistry with Theo is remarkable, and the two of them play a large part in carrying the show. For a while, the quirky dialogue and ridiculous characters keep the play going, but it is not enough. There are moments in which the lack of plot and purpose overshadow even the most delightful of exchanges. This is made worse whenever the play goes in more serious directions, and the acting begins to feel forced. Only Ward as Theo manages to pull off the sadder moments, evoking misty-eyes more than once.

The Theatre of NOTE stages its production of “Copy,” directed by David LM McIntyre, in a truly small theater of less than fifty seats. The stage is accordingly quite tiny as well, divided in two by a copy machine placed in the center. On one side of the machine is a table surrounded by chairs that serve to represent the conference room, and on the other is a desk and chair, with stapler, sticky notes and writing utensils to go along. That seems to be all there is to the set, but as we later find, the walls at the back of either side are transparent when illuminated, and the spaces behind them serve as the men’s and ladies’ rooms. It is behind these illusory walls, where actors appear only as vague silhouettes, that emotions take over and characters go to laugh and cry just for the sake of laughing and crying. The small space, and the close proximity between the audience and actors—which would normally set me off on a celebratory rant concerning the personal intimacy of the theater-going experience—is actually a cause for awkwardness in this case. The staging feels forced, and the larger-than-life characters feel cramped in their space. In a way, however, this also lends to the claustrophobic feeling of the office, which I’m sure many can relate with. 

The power of nostalgia, the pain of loss, the potential of laughter, and the question of what is real are some of the more profound ideas that “Copy” explores. Lemurs, baby armies, apple slurping and stolen museum exhibits are some other (perhaps less profound) ideas it explores. The plot that follows no particular order or reasoning at first slowly comes together as the play progresses, but unfortunately, it never really completes itself—not convincingly, anyways. The play is something of a scattered gem collection, shining with moments of brilliance here and there, but holding little semblance of structure or wholeness.

Reach reporter Sara Itkis here.



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