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REVIEW: ‘Assistance’ studies a staff’s afflictions

esperMichael022812_optSnarky assistants cope with a nasty genius in Leslye Headland’s new comedy

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

The author of “Bachelorette,” a sardonic 2010 comedy about girls going wild on the eve of a wedding, Leslye Headland is a smart, talented playwright with a particularly fresh sense of comedy. That’s fresh as in the sense of being ironic and snarky.

Headland’s latest play, “Assistance,” which opened Tuesday at Playwrights Horizons, is an ironic, snarky comedy about several young people coping as best as they can with a monster.

The monster is one Daniel Weisinger, a modern-day movie mogul who does not materialize physically during the brisk course of Headland’s 85-minute play.

Presumably modeled after the tempestuous producer Harvey Weinstein, this impossibly demanding guy frequently phones his assistants at his home office in Manhattan to give them hell. See them stammer and wince and quiver as his (unheard by us) voice furiously abuses them from long distance.assistance022812_opt

In turn, the various assistants support or undermine each other. Overworked and underpaid, they struggle desperately to maintain their sanity, anticipating that their capabilities eventually will be rewarded with better posts in the producer’s enthralling empire.

“I hate it here and I don’t want to leave,” wails one of Weisinger’s oppressed minions.

Precisely why these clever kids remain so deeply in the nasty producer’s thrall is never articulated by the characters. Perhaps if we saw some example of Weisinger’s alleged genius, we’d understand their plight.



 

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