nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
August 15, 2011
The Classroom is a well-written, superbly-acted tour de force about the social dynamics of the corporate subculture of employees and the dangling sword overhead of the corporate culture of bosses. Set in the middle months of 2006, the action, which starts out as a slice-of-life comedy, follows the shenanigans of seven or eight intelligent yet immature paralegals who clearly don't want to "grow up"—whatever that means.
Lawyer Paul Stone (Timothy McGeever) speaks his TV commercial inviting clients to the firm of Sussberg, Edelman, and Stone, specializing in class action lawsuits against pharmaceuticals. (One lawsuit is against an antidepressant that causes obesity and diabetes.) In "the classroom," the former room of lawyers' leadership seminars, sits a row of black desks with computer monitors, behind which now sit the restless paralegals. The huge whiteboard in the back holds the Quote of the Month, which changes from "Meow" to "I am not on drugs!!!", and Employee of the Month, including Olympian Shaun White (February), 24's Jack Bauer (May), and Nick Nolte's mug shot (July).
Gilbert (Vichet Chum), the best researcher, and Doug Marino (David Hudson), nicknamed "The Sheriff," try to keep their co-workers' sophomoric behavior under control. Other paralegals include Saul (Adam Lerman), who carries the meanest streak, Marco (Carlo Rivieccio)—"Polo!" someone must call whenever he is introduced, JoeKorman (Jonathan Dickson), who fields complaint calls from crazy clients, and Carrie (Christine Rowan), the lone woman, who keeps raising the thermostat. Frequent visitors include the despised Mikey (Jamie Grayson), whom the others dub the "vomit slave," and Samantha (Joy Farmer-Clary), The Sheriff's girlfriend, whom the men think is compromising Doug's manhood because she inspires him to eat healthier foods.
Into this cacophony of spitballs, your-mother jokes, and lame-to-witty literary and film references comes new employee Jason Rosewood (Brian Patrick Murphy), whom the paralegals nickname "Fro-swood" because of the bushy hairdo in his driver's license photo. His naïve question, "Are you on birth control?"—meaning the birth control account—meets with knowing laughs. Soon he asks, "Don't any of you believe in what you're doing?" The reply: "'Believe in what you're doing'? What are you, sixteen?"
Soon Rosewood fits in, playing Sudoku religiously at 3pm with the group, and engaging with Marco in a Wendy's Triple Classic eating contest, which is hilariously conveyed through slow motion, strobe lights, and the theme from Chariots of Fire. However, when Daria (Ali Rose Dachis), the boss's niece, comes to work in "the classroom" and objects to a sexist comment, the paralegals' unyielding response to her sets off a chain of events that leads to some corporate sword-wielding. In fact, the company pulls a questionable cost-cutting move that shows that they may not truly care about purpose of their firm, either.
Craig Clary has crammed his wry script with jokes, puns, and cultural references, as well as keen insight into how individual personalities feed into group dynamics. Director Lori Wolter Hudson presents Clary's script with clear focus, and all the actors perform their characters brilliantly. The set, designed by Rob Tintoc, serves this play well. The Classroom is a hilarious experience, but also a commentary on employee morale, playfulness versus productivity versus profit, and how companies and employees fail each other.