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Getting the Business

Susan Louise O'Connor gives a dynamic performance in Victor L. Cahn's play about a woman who climbs the corporate ladder. logo
Susan Louise O'Connor and Victor L. Cahn
in Getting the Business
(© Jon Kandel)
Victor L. Cahn's new play, Getting the Business at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, aims to satirize the corporate structure and what it takes to "get ahead." Despite some clever dialogue, the 80-minute two-hander, falls short of this goal.

The piece, directed by Adam Fitzgerald, opens promisingly with a witty exchange between a young secretarial candidate, Patricia (Susan Louise O'Connor), and an older advertising executive, Bert (played by Cahn). She incredulously insists that he should hire her despite having no qualifications or experience. (On her resume, she details her education as simply having "gone to college.")

Despite all this, Patricia charms Bert and he sees her bending (or completely ignoring) the rules as initiative. Patricia climbs exceedingly fast up the corporate ladder, slyly negotiating a raise within a few weeks. Bert is impressed at first by her drive and attention to detail, but grows alarmed as she oversteps her position.

O'Connor gives a nuanced and dynamic performance as she walks the line between innocence and manipulation. The actress brings as much life as she can to Patricia, but we sense it's only a fraction of who this character could be. Unfortunately, Cahn simply can't match her ability. He's good with the deadpan lines he writes for himself, but when more emotion is required, he falls flat.

As an author, Cahn is adept with short quips. However, he's unable to take his characters to the next level. Conflicts are introduced abruptly and resolved quickly, leaving little space for the characters to breathe. Without this added depth, the action grows increasingly hollow. While the play never feels excruciatingly long, it doesn't leave much to ponder after the final blackout.

The production has an attractive sleekness that's echoed by designers Joel Sherry and Tristan Raines, who create an air of deceptive seductiveness with their sets and costumes. It's unfortunate, though, that the show's appearance does not match what lies within, which ironically is one of the play's many underdeveloped themes.

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