nytheatre.com review by Robert Buckwalter
June 29, 2007
Professional Skepticism by James Rasheed serves as a colonoscope of sorts, illuminating the inner bowels of a major accounting firm wherein lie the dark souls of individuals with about as much incorruptibility as any of the infamous corporate newsmakers of the past decade. As well, it displays the cutthroat competitive maneuverings of those obsessed with scaling the corporate ladder in an environment where not doing so is equal to death. But if you're worried that this makes Rasheed's play sound like something unwatchable without your Prozac, fear not: it's a comedy (albeit, yes, a dark one). And Rasheed and the cast succeed in making this an enjoyable evening of darkness.
The pressure is on inside this high-profile accounting firm burdened with the task of completing a major audit in nearly record time and the junior staff is feeling the heat from above. Leo (Steve French) is put in charge of the audit. He is embittered, overworked, unhappily married, and his attitude shows this. He is also in danger of losing his job for a reason that quietly nags at him throughout the play. He delegates and dictates workload assignments to his more junior colleagues: Paul (Matthew J. Nichols) a nerdy, high-reaching, at times nutty staffer desperate for recognition from upper management; and Greg (Wesley Thornton), the brightest and youngest member on the team, though not necessarily naïve, who forms and breaks intimate friendships in order to maneuver himself higher in the company. The tensions in the relationships among these three, stoked by survivalist competitive thirsts, are put under greater strain given the weight of the pending deadline.
And then there's Margaret (Britney Burgess), a flirtatious and sultry colleague from a different department who knows how to play the libidinous appetite of these success-driven men in a way that is both recreational and calculated for her benefit. However, as she moves lasciviously in and out of the action, we are not always sure what her (i.e., Rasheed's) intentions are; and her motives and desires with one particular auditor are confusing at times, especially given the resolution of their relationship.
The professional skepticism (which in auditing terms means, roughly, to have an open and reasonably questioning mind in the face of discrepancies) incumbent upon these auditors is at risk of being compromised due to the aforementioned stresses. Although, for one of the auditors, skepticism turns to suspicion when the audit turns up some funny numbers. What he will do with this discovery is where the story starts taking significant shape.
The cast of four turn in fine performances, each bringing to life, with specific clarity, the multi-dimensional characters that Rasheed has created. Credit should also go to director Kareem Fahmy for a solid job staging and finessing the relationships among these players and building the story to where it needs to go.
It should be noted that this is the inaugural production for the brand new Zootopia Theatre Company; however, they make no beginner's mistakes here. In fact, it is as solid a production as one could hope to find in the world of independent theater. Andrew Lu's set design, Scott Bolman's lighting, and the work of the rest of the creative team all come together to fully realize the world of the play and make the most of the wonderfully intimate performing space afforded them.