Arts & Events

Theater Review: 'Pitch Perfect' at Central Works

By Ken Bullock
Saturday August 03, 2013 - 11:32:00 AM

"When you hired us, you said we were like family ... "

"That was bullshit!"

Frantic ad exec Bob (Brian Trybom) bursts into the half-abandoned LA office of the firm with bloodletting on his mind, having flown in from New York to fire someone, talking loud, brash and peppering his aggression with expletives, obviously trying to impress himself as much as everyone else in his self-conscious hard nose act. "You didn't have a childhood, did you, Bob?" queries Caitlin (Maggie Mason), the pert, blue-eyed Brit office manager-cum-multitasker, wearing many hats; "We used to have jobs here!" Then a Hide-a-Bed groans "Oh God, where am I?"—and the audience is introduced to Roger (Tim Redmond), a kind of self-made Robin Hood of an agency creative director, sarcastic and playful up against Bob's stiff contentiousness ... 

So begins former agency creative director Martin Edwards' play, an abrasive comedy, well-directed by Gary Graves at Central Works in the Berkeley City Club. All the testosterone-driven rivalry between Bob and Roger give what seems at first the focus of the tale the aura (and volume) of an arena rock concert. But it's not just a door slammer with iron doors. 'Pitch Perfect' is also something of a glib, wistful failed romance between Roger and his Ex, Maggie (Deb Fink), fired partly through Rogers's betrayal-as-ass-saving, which he confesses to her as he seeks her assistance in a Hail Mary play-of-a-pitch to save his neck again from wringing, pinned to a more unusual, personal pitch aimed at an estranged lover, sweetened with a rare bottle of Sean Thackary wine: a proposal of divorce. 

The women, Maggie and Caitlin, are the softer voices—one aspiring, feeling her way upward on the corporate ladder; the other bitter, brought back from early retirement, painting sunsets from the balcony of a Santa Monica condo, with an immediately rescinded job offer—as counterpoint to the sound and fury of the men, accented by Greg Scharpen's Mood Music. Deb Fink's an old hand at comedy at Central Works and on other local stages, the jaded Maggie being a new arrow in her quiver. Maggie Mason—who distinguished herself just a few years ago as the girlfriend of a white collar child abuser in TheatreFIRST's unusual 'Future Me,' staged in another room at the City Club—perfectly balances Caitlin's devoted adoration of Roger with her cool ambition, making her final gambit a fitting follow-up to Maggie's own call of Checkmate! 

If much of contemporary stage comedy hereabouts plays like rehashed Sitcom, 'Pitch Perfect' is more Movie of the Week. It's a good, breezy comedy for summer, one with an undertow, besides "throwaway" lines like the one about the exemplary Super Bowl ad with the projectile-vomiting baby, or Maggie's nettled declaration to Bob concerning Roger: "I'm not taking that job if the Executive Bathroom comes with him in it!" Not a bad choice for third position in a season of four plays, the bridge from Spring to Fall shows—but the run ends August 18, tickets priced at Central Works' usual bargain rates, including pay-what you-can Thursday nights, as well as daytime shows Sundays at five.