ROOM FOR ADVANCEMENT: A WORK ETHIC COMEDY, Zebra Crossing Theatre. Playwrights Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan have come up with a producer's wet dream: a cheap two-character comedy with a nice simple set, a university job-placement office. But Room for Advancement: A Work Ethic Comedy is an audience member's nightmare--a laughless, monotonous, predictable 80-minute play.
Quade and Donovan stumble into the trap that awaits all writers of small-cast shows: their characters aren't interesting enough and their story isn't compelling enough to justify a full-length play. This tale of eccentric ne'er-do-well Jane and grouchy stuffed shirt Tom, who meet and become friends over the course of Jane's hapless job search, could easily have been squeezed into a 45-minute one-act. Instead Quade and Donovan (best known for their long-running hit Late Nite Catechism) have padded this play with lots of pointless talk--conversations that take way too long, monologues about jobs and life that take even longer, and a running gag about a secretary who's always on a cig break that never gets a laugh.
Director Patrick Trettenero deserves some of the blame, if only for casting a comically impaired actor like Jordan Teplitz in a role that clearly was meant to be funny. At least I think I heard a few funny lines cowering behind Teplitz's readings. When he isn't telegraphing punch lines, Teplitz mumbles them like a shy author ashamed of his jokes. Jan Ellen Lew is considerably funnier. Not funny enough, however, to save a foundering show.