Jennifer Finnigan and Megan Mullally in The Receptionist
(© Enci)
Jennifer Finnigan and Megan Mullally in The Receptionist
(© Enci)
Underneath the muzak version of "The Girl From Ipanema" and the idle gossip, something ugly is happening at the unnamed company in Adam Bock's chilling play The Receptionist, now being presented by L.A.'s Evidence Room at the Odyssey Theatre, with a first-rate cast led by a virtually unrecognizable Megan Mullally.

Beverly Wilkins (Mullally) runs the front desk at a seemingly typical New England office. She spends her day jumping from phone call to phone call, interspersed with her own personal business, and chatting with co-worker, Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan), who worries about her relationship with a narcissistic boyfriend.

The day-to-day monotony changes when Mr. Dart (Chris L. McKenna), a handsome representative from the central office, arrives, leading to flirtations and innuendos. But the mysterious visitor has a mission and it's not very pleasant as office head Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry) soon learns.

Director Bart DeLorenzo manages to perfectly meld the mundane with the menacing, particularly with the pre-scene music, a combination of harsh sounding echoes, hostile sounding typing and a tune reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. Conversely, Chris Covics' set design places the audience in a very realistic office, in front of a reception desk with peach crème walls and nondescript art, and Ann Closs-Farley's spot-on costumes add to the banality with Beverly's bland browns and grays and Lorraine's skimpy one-pieces that barely cover her rear end.

For much of the play, Mullally -- who also sports an unflattering 1960s hairstyle and a flat New England drawl -- has lengthy one-ended phone conversations that are hilarious (and reminiscent of the great Bob Newhart's stand-up routines). But she is effortlessly able to switch from frivolously uninvolved to severely traumatized when the role demands it.

Finnigan's flighty delivery is filled with comical élan, and she even describes atrocities with blackly humorous nonchalance. Perry has only a few scenes, but his jittery paranoia prepares us for Bock's final reveal. And McKenna has the trickiest part -- a man as seemingly charismatic as a politician, with a bright smile and a calming tone, who turns on a dime to pure brutality without raising his voice or a hand. It's a demonic transformation.