One of The Nice Ones
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Atwater Village Theater
Extended through August 28
Not all sociopaths reach for a gun.
Some people appear normal until one day an event triggers their rage and they go off the deep end. A few of these individuals turn violent, but others, like Tracy (Rebecca Gray), the loose-lipped but (deceptively) harmless-looking woman at the core of Erik Patterson’s scabrously funny One of the Nice Ones, wreak their anger in less blatant but nonetheless devastating ways.
Tracy works as a telephone salesperson for a weight-loss company, and when the play begins she’s facing a performance review, to be conducted by Roger (Graham Hamilton) a senior employee (12 years with the firm) with a relaxed and non-confrontational manner. Though Roger assures Tracy that he’s not planning to fire her, some gnawing internal anxiety prompts her to panic and soon she’s offering to have sex with Roger if he’ll let her keep her job. Taken aback, he demurs at first, but curiosity and temptation overwhelm his better judgment, and in no time he has her sprawled across some non-descript piece of office furniture, in an act he’ll soon regret.
The repercussions (I’ll leave the details a surprise for when you see it, which you should) cause Roger to vent his own frustrations on Neal (Rodney To), a meek and mild colleague who fulfills his sales quotient and then some, and who ordinarily would be left un-harassed except that Roger is now searching for an outlet for his own inner disquietude.
There’s a fourth character, Colleen (Tara Karsian), a potential client that Tracy’s roped in for an interview and whose arrival adds fuel to already seething circumstances.
Normally I’d say more, but One of the Nice Ones is a comedy that deserves to be experienced with its upending twists and turns left undisclosed.
The backdrop in designer Amanda Knehans’ set features a collage of every-day objects randomly arranged in a way that oddly reflect the discombobulated mindset of these characters and their world. Each of the four performances is razor-sharp, and Chris Fields’s direction is faultless, as usual.
The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Atwater; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 4 & 7 p.m.; Extended through August 28. 310-307-3753 or www.EchoTheaterCompany.com. Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission.