By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
You’ve never had a boss as excruciating as Victor. And my guess is that even if you are a boss, and your staff thinks you’re a moron, you can’t come close. (I know, you’re a great boss, you’ve told the staff yourself.)
Victor is the boss, one of two characters in Rich Orloff’s play Big Boys, the amusingly dumb and strikingly well-performed production now at Souderton’s Montgomery Theater, with one of the region’s most seasoned actors, Pete Pryor, as the boss. The other character is young, newly hired Norm, played by Jefferson Haynes, also seen on several area stages.
Through two comic acts, they play against one another — the worst in American business culture and the about-to-be just as bad: a newly minted business school grad who comes to Victor’s corporation with only a textbook understanding of the real world.
What that corporation does — well, I’ve seen the show and I don’t know. Neither do Victor and Norm. It doesn’t matter. Big Boys is not quite traditionally absurdist — it has an obvious plot without a hint of symbolism — but it’s absurd nonetheless, in a Marx Brothers sort of way.
“Do you think the ends always justify the means?” asks the boss to his young trainee.
“Absolutely!” says the kid, eager to please.
“You’re coming along nicely!” the boss shoots back.
Or, says the boss, “Give them a bonus and deduct it from their salaries.”
“I already have.”
“I’m so proud of you!
Orloff’s play is not as much a running joke as it is a running method of joking: Boss is slimy, underling calls him on it, Boss takes that as a compliment. Variation: Boss is slimy, underling is slimier, Boss beams with pride.
It’s funny, but there’s no let-up in tone — Big Boys is extreme from first to last. It would become lame, a play with solid form but no real content, were it not in such fine hands.
Pryor, who directs and clearly knows what he wants from the script, portrays the boss with a playful menace that provides a nice tension throughout, making the play more than two hours of one-liners. Haynes is aptly vulnerable at first, but as he morphs into his superior, even his face seems to change to fit his new role.
Big Boys may be saying something about American business or the concepts of ethics and values, greed, corruption and free enterprise. But I can’t get a serious thought out of it. For me, it’s a fine-tuned study in silliness, and with clever word play. And that’s enough.
Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, firstname.lastname@example.org, or #philastage on Twitter. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/howardshapiro. Hear his reviews at the Classical Network, www.wwfm.org.
Big Boys: Presented by Montgomery Theater, 124 N. Main St., Souderton, through Oct. 8. Tickets: $29-$35. Information: 215-723-9984 or www.montgomerytheater.org.