A secretary is not a toy

More Bitch Than a Bitch

By Hays Hitzing
Directed by Elizabeth Bourgeois
The Actors Lab/The East Lobby
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Raw Space Theatre M
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

You think your job is a hassle? Try changing places with Calvin Carney (Brendan P. Hines), subservient to an enticing and abusive mini-skirted boss (Aileen Chumard) no older than he is (25). Calvin seems capable, but appreciated? Hardly. Not when there's a sexist remark to be made or a seductive overture to be turned into a putdown.

But Calvin also has to contend with his recurring memory of being thrown into jail, under rather Kafkaesque circumstances. And there's Barb (Karla Chandler), a congenitally depressed and bitter fellow office-worker who sometimes attempts to get solace from Calvin because they're in the same boat. But then sometimes she just (hilariously) skulks about, crossing upstage pointedly but purposelessly, with a despairing scowl on her face.

Scenes from Calvin's time in jail alternate at first with office scenes, but then his fellow incarcerees start showing up in the office -- first in context (one is the office mail-deliverer), then with less circumstantial reality. This overlapping raises the question -- was he ever actually in jail? Are the jail scenes a hallucination, or are the office scenes? In spite of Calvin's removing his tie for prison scenes and retying it for office scenes, none of this is ever sorted out. Nor is their any real attempt to by playwright Hays Hitzing. The whole enterprise has the feel of something written while an overeducated, underemployed writer is trying to keep his brain from turning to mush as he's asked to type memoranda for ludicrously underqualified and overpaid executives. This fits with Calvin's comments to the audience that show him more aware than his self-effacing work persona, and his feeling of power when he withholds a package his boss is expecting.

But neither is Bitch a shallow revenge fantasy. The limits of obsequiousness don't really seem to be the point, although there are a number of dead bodies on the stage at the end. That no easy answers are offered is reason for thanks, and there's enough content to keep the audience involved (there's an interesting illustration of prison survival tactics, for instance). And there was some fine acting as well, particularly by Hines as the put-upon and sometimes bedraggled Calvin. He was simultaneously intelligent and hopeless, flipping through his secretarial notes to confirm or refute idiocies from higher-ups, or turning his attention to the audience to describe incidents he can hardly make sense of.

The set was an efficient office setup that had just enough of the desperation of the real thing, and the lighting created an effective jail atmosphere (stage manager was Tyler Miller). Director Elizabeth Bourgeois staged it all with an absurdist touch, and this Bitch was funny and disarming, even as it befuddled attempts to make any sense out of it.

Also with Joe Corrao, Joe Lane, David J. Sporer, Lamont Copeland, James Edward Lee, Erik Landgren, Adam Hunter.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler