“Office Hours” by Canadian playwright Norm Foster was originally staged to open last April at the Lofte Community Theatre. Then COVID hit, and a cast of 16 players had to wait to put on the production as it was postponed indefinitely. Fast forward seven months later, the show opened October 16th, going off without a hitch, minus a last-minute fill-in by JJ Davis, (“Becky’s New Car,” “Of Mice and Men”) to replace an actor that had tested positive. In the true spirit of “the show must go on,” the play that was slated to open October 10th, was saved.
“Office Hours” details six vignettes of life in the office: The Reporter, The Pitch, The Agent, The Visit, The Dismissal, and The Analyst. Reading like chapters out of a book, six individual scenes play out, each with a theme that connects one unit with another. It’s those intricacies that enrapture an audience, as they start to put two and two together. As scenes unravel so do some of the characters, and it is a treat to watch. Artistic director Kevin Colbert even makes an appearance in the show. The play clips along at a smart pace that is all too relatable, and at times, deliciously suggestive. This dark modern comedy does not disappoint.
Most of us have had the experience of working in an office, or at least of stepping into one. “Office Hours” perfectly captures the nuances of a cut-throat competitive media environment. We follow a production team and their efforts to woo a washed-up, lush movie director, and a businessman caught canoodling with mistresses by his wife, literally caught with his pants down. Or take the horse jockey manager who must break the generations-long employment of his father’s best friend’s son because the jockey is grossly overweight. All these scenes tie into one another in the most delightfully entertaining and hilarious way. With an art deco office set that remains stationary throughout, it’s the perfect backdrop for a plot that has many interweaving stories with one central workplace theme.
One particularly comical vignette is The Analyst, where a failed figure skater attempts to jump off a ledge and his therapist, who has no time for that, wants nothing more than to be able to leave on time so she can have a personal life. Mary Kay Desjardins, a performer who frequents the Ralston and Papillion theatre scene, plays Sharon Freeman, a no-nonsense therapist. Desjardins is all business and has no time for shenanigans in her keen approach to the character, lauding a few laughs as she screams at the jumper Neal Penny (Matthew Fogarty) to come down from the ledge before 5 o’clock. She is propositioned by a salesman (Kevin Colbert), who wants to sell her none other than a week-at-glance planner (a reoccurring theme throughout).
Melissa Holder is a force to be reckoned with as Pam Gerard, the station news producer ecstatic at the thought of a jumper for her breaking 5 o’clock news segment. Gerard is the classic alpha female archetype with a penchant for drama and juicy news, always itching for her next big break. When the reporter she demotes (Randy Wallace) is suddenly stabbed, Pam Gerard is the first to call in a camera crew to capture the story. Wallace starts off the scene ready to confront his despicable boss, ready to launch into a name-calling tirade but chickens out every time she walks through the door to talk business. The dichotomy between the two is palpable and fun to watch.
Steve Martin and Betty Colbert as Gordon Blaine and Francine Majors in The Pitch try to persuade director Bobby Holland (Josh Smith) that his movie is great, when it is really a knock off of the classic Tarzan. Dramatic irony is in full force.
While every scene boasts of the actors’ comedic chops, the highlight of the evening was watching the versatile talent of Therese Rennels in the role of Rhonda Penny in The Visit. Unbeknownst to her, Rhonda is a domineering mother who learns of her son’s latent sexual identity later in life. It is to her horror that this means she must be a hovering parent. Richard Penny (Wade Mumford) is a cool and confident entertainment lawyer whose parents, Rhonda and Lloyd Penny (JJ Davis) drop in for an unexpected visit. Mumford delivers his bombshell smoothly with the same coolness his character exudes. Davis takes the cake with his portrayal of Lloyd, who endures playful badgering from his wife, but always steals a few moments to garner laughs from the audience with his antics.
The cast rounds out with impressive new talent. Jason Isaacson from Lincoln plays Mark Young, a businessman who is hilariously confronted by his wife Ellie (Renae Kohler) when she hires a private detective to catch him in the act. Isaacson deflects in the most perfect manner as he nonchalantly comes up with the most feasible explanation for his infidelity.
Real life buds Adam J. Fulbright and Trey Kelly play Stan Thurber and Artie Barnes, a horse race owner and the endearing but unqualified jockey he must let go. Fulbright’s delivery is impeccable as he navigates through a tough conversation with Kelly, never missing a beat.
The dynamic of their offstage bond is unmistakable. Other new players to the Lofte are Desjardins, Abe Tabares, Melissa Holder, and Matthew Fogarty. “Office Hours” provided the perfect comedy and laugh that you need after months of a theatre hiatus. It is certainly worth the wait.
The Lofte presented Norm Foster’s “Office Hours” October 16 – 18 and 22-25.
Tickets are now available for their next production, “Making Spirits Bright” by Kat Cover. Performances: December 5-6, 11-13, & 17-20.
Read about The Lofte’s COVID safety protocol information here.