In Act II of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, J.P. Finch visits the mens washroom and sings I Believe in You. Hes looking into a mirror, of course. Its a satirical observation. The song brings to mind the contemporary popularity of self-affirmation. Could inflatable self-esteem be far behind?
Indeed. Vanity, pride, and other deadly sins drive this tartly entertaining musical. While Finch preens, jealous rivals circle him like sharks drunk on envy. So much for an accurate picture of American business.
Business and Unnecessary Farce are two of three comedies playing this summer at Creede Repertory Theatre. Now celebrating its 46th season, CRT is thriving. The company will open a new second stage in mid-July, and all told, CRT will mount seven productions before the season comes to a close in late September. Two of the comedies will be reviewed here; both are well worth the drive.
Business delivers a double shot of satire. Based on Shepherd Meads witty 1952 self-help book, the Frank Loesser-Abe Burrows musical sends up the workplace we all know. Not unlike TVs The Office, the imaginary World Wide Wicket Company is cursed with an inept boss, a strict hierarchy and underlings who climb over each other in endless status wars.
Business is a musical memo from another era that is achingly relevant and funny, and entertaining. No one has a Blackberry. No one texts. But the human ground rules are the same. Any American who has ever worked anywhere will recognize this Darwinian universe.
The CRT production deserves every bit of applause it gets starting with smart direction by Joseph Ward and his lead. Anthony W. Jackson plays Finch. Surprisingly, Jackson looks a lot like his counterpart in the current Broadway production of Business, Daniel Radcliffe, yes that Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter. With a clear tenor voice and wide-eyed demeanor, Jackson scampers about, spinning the boss and skewering fellow workers.
With an excellent ensemble and small stage band, the musical unspools on a stylish set replete with offices, sliding work stations and elevator doors. A Mondrianesque stage screen suggests a symbolic skyscraper and serves this fast-moving musical well.
An Unnecessary Farce, by Paul Slade Smith, is a new work in an old genre. Set in a small town, the plot begins realistically, then enters the netherworld of farce. Two inept cops have set up a sting operation in twin motel rooms. Their goal is to catch their mayor on suspicion of embezzlement. What happens thereafter is too complicated to summarize, bu the CRT ensemble makes Slades wacky universe believable.
Under Jamie Hortons imaginative direction, the seven-member cast spins a complex, highly physical comedy into a little masterpiece. Obligatory door slamming alternates with stumbling and tumbling on, over and under beds. As a bonus, the playwright has sprinkled in witty word play, a tongue twister that deserves applause, a bit of pantomime that leaves you breathless and a surprise ending that makes you smile. The ensemble is simply wonderful, and Im not a huge fan of farce.
Five more productions will unfurl this summer, including two serious plays, one more comedy, The Mystery of Irma Vep, a new work, The Bad Man and an evening of improv. The CRT season will run through Sept. 24.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.