Review: Human Resources

Last Tuesday night I had the honor of going to see a new Off-Broadway comedy with Ms. Shanna Gibbs, who, get this, doesn’t know who Phil Spector is. Crazy right? We’ll come back to this blasphemy in another article. Any who, we saw Kristen Niven’s Human Resources, a story about a group of four people all competing for the same job and their experience in the waiting room of some corporate office.

Let me start by saying that I was impressed with how original this comedy is, as its actors had never met prior to the night we met them. The concept of the play is that there are five separate groups of five actors each rehearsing the same play but with their own troupes only. Just before opening night one actor is chosen from each group to play their part with actors from each other group. Each time you see a production you are seeing a completely different play as each time the actors have never previously met. Acting is hard enough when you know the cast around you, let alone when you go into each performance like it’s the first dress rehearsal. Believe me, I know. I once stole the stage in a third grade production of Robin Hood as I played Merry Man Eight. There is no eighth merry man in the Robin Hood story, but I guess I was such a good actor they let me “rewrite” (if you will) the entire folk story of Robin Hood.

L to R: Julie Berndt (Beneatha), Desmond Dutcher (Robertson)Kevin Stanfa (Travis), Mary Hynes (Jones) & E. J. An (Melinda).Photo credit to Susanne Pinedo

L to R: Julie Berndt (Beneatha), Desmond Dutcher (Robertson)
Kevin Stanfa (Travis), Mary Hynes (Jones) & E. J. An (Melinda).
Photo credit to Susanne Pinedo

These actors really pulled it off though. Tuesday’s performers, listed below, are a really talented group who I would have thought had been working together for years.

Beneatha, played by Julie Berndt, is a cold bitch secretary who makes life quite difficult for the applicants.

Desmond Dutcher plays Robertson, an emasculated slob whose horrible wife is tired of him being a Mr. Mom, so he needs this job to save his marriage.

Kevin Stanfa’s Travis is an arrogant, self centered, over-achiever who condescends and picks fights with everyone in the room.

Mary Hynes shines as Jones, an overly emotional, slightly unbalanced woman who uses this interview to try to work towards being a better person.

Finally, Melinda, played by E.J. An, brings us the stereotypical robotic, extremely intelligent Asian woman who wants this job because it just happens to match her current interests.

The entire cast was very professional and believable, and there was no sense that they were just acting. It all seemed very natural. My personal favorites were Ms. Jones and Mr. Robertson, the underdogs you couldn’t help but root for. They worked really well together and had the best chemistry on stage, though all actors played their parts very well.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the writing quite as enjoyable. The script was flawed and just unbelievable. No job interview would ever happen like this; just screaming in the waiting room, dishing up dirt on all the applicants and spreading it around to the others with absolutely no repercussions.  I understand comedy tries to make things awkward and you need to suspend belief to an extent, but it can’t just be purely, blatantly ridiculous. It also wasn’t funny. I smiled twice during the whole thing, once at a line about dead cats and once when an actor screamed “fuck” really loudly. My sense of humor tends to be more dark and depressing and I often find humor in offensive subject matter, but I am still able to laugh at good clean humor when it is done properly, and this wasn’t. I feel bad for the actors who perform this, because they are all very talented and if they had something decent to perform it would have worked perfectly. The thing needs a total rewrite to bring it some reality and to give it a fucking point. At the end I was like, “What the fuck was that?” Niven, what message are you trying to convey?

Despite the deficient script, the actor’s performances made this a somewhat enjoyable experience and you still have one more chance to get in on the action. Human Resources runs again on Sunday, March 3rd at Theatre 54 @ Shetler Studios, 244 W. 54th St.

WHEN: Sunday, March 3rd
WHERE: Theatre 54, Shelter Studios, 244 W. 54th St.
TICKETS: $18 @ 212.868.4444

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