Here’s the premise for Occupational Pleasures, presented by Cincinnati’s Homegrown Theater: Dan and Louise (played by Dylan Shelton and Lauren Showen) work in the same office and are having an affair. They believe their romance remains a secret until they find copies of fan fiction-style stories that have been written about them, each from a coworker who views their relationship differently.
One of the authors is the nerdy and inward Paulette (Leah Strasser) who writes about them in the syrupy, sensitive prose of a Harlequin Romance. Another is Gary (Nathan Neorr), the office jerk, who’s lurid, 50 Shades of Gray-styled pages has managed to get most of the company’s staff all hot, bothered and hooked.
The actors for this production, including Louise’s boss Susan (Lisa DeRoberts) and her cynical colleague Brad (Dave Powell), all give tight, focused performances to a script by Ben Dudley that really doesn’t give them anywhere to go. An uncredited actor who plays a janitor provides some humorous moments. He appears during the preshow to sweep the stage, and in random scenes for some silly non-sequiturs.
The use of video projections to enact the fictional scenes does a nice job of balancing the verbal with the visual. There are some funny bits with a rolling toilet that break the fourth wall.
The major flaw of Occupational Pleasures lies in the mix of chosen content: The office setting, the casual fling, cheap fiction in its various guises are all shallow elements in themselves. But they don’t increase in depth or height when heaped together. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of talent onstage, I just wish they had found something really worth committing to.
Nicholas Korn is a playwright whose work has been produced in New York City, Chicago and Cincinnati. His stage comedy, Delirium’s Daughters, recently played Off-Off Broadway at New York’s Theatre Row Studio Theatre in February 2015.
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