Promotion overdue

Women @ Work

By Arlene Hutton
Directed by Sharon Fallon
Vital Theatre Company
432 W. 42nd St. 3rd floor (268-2040)
Equity showcase (closes June 30)
Review by Julie Halpern

In its short history, the Vital Theatre Company has established itself as one of Off-Off Broadway's treasures. Woman @ Work, their latest effort, continues this standard of excellence. Arlene Hutton, winner of two Samuel French short-play contests, has written an engaging collage of interwoven stories of women in the workplace, touching on situations most women and many men can relate to. Director Sharon Fallon, and her gifted cast of five women, infused empathy and liveliness into characters many of us recognize - maybe because we see ourselves in their poignant and all -too-familiar situations.

In Vero Beach, a recently divorced woman (Veronica M. Kehoe) who works at a boutique shares her anxieties with her co-workers (Lynne Halliday and Carol Halstead), who are also divorced. Just as Kehoe's character seems to be cheering up, she is confronted with her ex-husband's much-younger mistress, who comes in looking for clothes. To their credit, her friends make the young woman unwelcome and she leaves, with luck never to return. Kehoe's performance as the discarded wife was heartbreaking. Halstead and Halliday were sympathetic and extremely likable as her loyal friends.

Halstead played a talk-show host of a reality-based program who realizes her guests are frauds and refuses to finish filming the segment, despite being prodded by her youthful producer (Melissa Rayworth) and her minions in A Closer Look. Halstead was glamorous and commanding, and Rayworth was right on in her portrayal of an unscrupulous young woman, concerned only with her own reputation and the bottom line.

Cafeteria was the most successful, with Halstead in another dynamite turn as a young woman who has recently adopted a Chinese baby and bought a house, only to realize she is about to be laid off. Rayworth, Hallyday and Irene McDonnell were magnificent as the cowardly co-workers who were privy to the situation but never let their friend know her job was in jeopardy.

McDonnell and Rayworth were also fantastic in Cubicle, an intricate tale of office intrigue and petty jealousy. Rayworth's character has just met a man she likes, and her manipulative and jealous office buddy (a sublimely evil McDonnell) does everything she can to thwart the relationship.

Mooshoo is a touching examination of a lonely, isolated freelance writer who hardly leaves her apartment. Hallyday gave a wrenching portrayal of a pathetic woman who is too overwrought to figure out how to tip the Chinese food deliveryman.

The ingenious set by Todd Butera comprised girders and other high-tech devices, and the simple furniture also had a techo-pop feel, accentuated by the edgy music by Alf Bishai, which sounded like the inside of a computer. Shelley Norton's attractive, contemporary costumes were absolutely right. Aaron Spivey's intense, bluish lighting scheme was an ideal metaphor for the coldness and disappointment endured by the characters.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern