It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad-as-a-hatter world!

Sex In Advertising

By Margaret Elman
Directed by Matt Lenz
The Miranda Theatre Company
259 W. 30th St. (268-9829)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 22)
Review by Judd Hollander

It's late at night, a major presentation is due in the a.m., and the clock is ticking. The pair under the gun, Leanne (Lisa Roberts Gillan) and Bart (Johnny Fido) have no idea what to do, and every possibility they come up with is worse than the last. Additionally, both have personal relationships that have unraveled and the long-time friends, and partners, are becoming increasingly attracted to each other. But is this really the start of something serious, or a fevered lust born from too many sleepless nights locked together in a tiny office? Welcome to the world of advertising, where intelligence and concepts take a back seat to snappy sayings and catchy jingles ("the lowest form of advertising"). (In a nice touch, the audience was treated to a barrage of famous commercial jingles before the show began.)

Sex In Advertising, taking place during several frenetic days at a New York ad agency, is a delightful satire on both subjects. The paranoia, politics, and ever-changing relationships with co-workers should be familiar to anyone who's ever worked in an office, no matter what type of job it was. Margaret Elman, herself a survivor from the advertising wars, has taken her experiences and fashioned a very funny script. All the stereotypical characters are present: the overbearing boss; the gossipy, sex-crazed co-worker (wonderfully played by Jessica Lynn); the good-natured, smart-alecky, and slightly paranoid co-workers, along with the aforementioned Leanne and Bart (who have been working in this field for so long, it's starting to invade their dreams.) Elman knows this territory well and mines it for laughs.

Very funny lines, however, do not a full play make. While the story told is quite interesting, the pacing was all too often deathly slow. Clocking in at two hours with intermission, it felt like at least three. Additionally, there were at least three possible endings for the play before it actually happened. Whether this was due to the playwright being too close to her work (it's her first produced play) or the director's failure to notice the problems in rehearsals, is open to question. Additionally, while both Leanne and Bart came across quite nicely, they were also the blandest of the bunch.

(Gillan's character especially - she's the one rock of sanity in this insane asylum - could do with a bit more characterization.)

Rob Odorisio's set effectively recreated the organized clutter of Leanne and Bart's office, as well as the atmosphere for a local bar, the film's two locales. Costumes by Tom Reiter and lighting by Scott Poitras are both adequate. Also starring Thom Goff, Mark Flesher, Paul Reggio, and the voice of Robb Webb.

Sex In Advertising isn't the most perfect comedy in the world, but it made for an entertaining diversion.

Box Score:
Writing - 1
Directing - 1
Acting - 1
Costumes - 1
Lighting/Sound - 1
Sets - 1

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Copyright 1997 Judd Hollander