Victor L. Cahn and Susan Louise O'Connor in GETTING THE BUSINESS. Photo by Jon Kandel.
BOTTOM LINE: Skilled acting performances help to flesh out this simple story, creating an enjoyable and suspenseful production.
Getting the Business opens with Patricia (Susan Louise O’Connor) arriving at the advertising agency office of Bert (Victor L. Cahn, who also wrote the script), a high ranking executive. Patricia apparently has sidestepped HR and stormed her way straight to his office in the hopes of charming him into hiring her. Soon enough we learn that Patricia has a strangely vague life story and work history. She has no college degree, no work history, no references and no specifics in terms of where she’s been living or where she’s been working. Certainly it seems like Patricia is hiding some rather large secrets in her past. Still, Patricia manages to sweet talk her way into the job using her moxie, physical attractiveness, and flattery to worm her way in. Soon enough, she’s bouncing into the office every day in miniskirts and heels. Right from her second week of work, Patricia starts taking on more and more responsibilities, even advising Bert on the failing of his lingerie ad campaign, demonstrating for him how the mysterious is more sexy than the obvious.
Eventually, she’s bypassing Bert entirely and bringing her ideas to the higher-ups, hinting that he might be losing his talent. Bert tries to reduce Patricia to his sexual plaything, pawing at her in the office, while she tries to use whatever sexual event transpires between the two (the scene cuts to darkness, leaving us to guess what might have happened) as a card in her winning hand. The two have some compelling scenes of mind games and power trips in which both try to outdo the other. Patricia shows how the less powerful (a woman without connections, formal training, or any kind of advantage) can maneuver her way to take down the powerful (a man with clout and professional success). The play’s self-identified label as a “farce-noir” seems to not be an entirely accurate description, although the gendered power dynamic games seem to certainly be reminiscent of eras past, recalling perhaps older works of film noir.
The story here is a rather simple and predictable one, whose ending is apparent from the very beginning. Nonetheless, the acting skills and chemistry between O’Connor and Cahn help to flesh out the story and give a feeling of suspense. O’Connor seems to shine in any role she's given, including last year’s Theasy-reviewed Paper Cranes and her recent role in Blithe Spirit on Broadway. She manages to add some dimension to this mostly one-dimensional role and her presence on stage is always enigmatic. Cahn also does well in his role as an aging executive whose own emotions and desires lead to his own self destruction. The sound design also helps to set the tone to the show by including well-executed insturmentals of such appropriate pop songs as Madonna’s “Material Girl” and Lady Gaga’s “Judas.” Overall, this story may not be a surprising one, but it’s one that’s streamlined and fully fleshed out.
(Getting the Business plays at The Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, through September 1, 2012. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $19.25 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200. )