Erik Patterson’s intense, outrageous and profane One of the Nice Ones, currently in production at Echo Theater Company, is black comedy at its very best. This ninety-minute, high-speed romp has so much going on that could offend the overly sensitive, that it is hard to know where to start. Blunt, crude sexual language, tightly coiled, cynical, manipulative characters whose behavior is beyond the pale makes for a delicious feast of fun, for those who love bold, in-your-face theatre.
In the offices of Tender Form Weight Loss Systems, Roger (Graham Hamilton), the manager, a hyper masculine-type, conducts a performance interview with the wheelchair bound Tracy (Rebecca Gray), who fears for her job as a telemarketer. She is a motor mouth who exposes her vulnerability to Roger and digs herself in ever deeper the more she rattles on. But she is a chameleon, a shapeshifter, who, throughout the play, changes the score, playing in whatever key leads to a win. Shy, buttoned-up Neal (Rodney To) is another telemarketer who finds himself squeezed between the powerful personalities of Roger and Tracy. And finally, Colleen (Tara Karsian) makes a late appearance as a prospective client recruited by Tracy. None of these characters are who they seem; all of them have hidden aspects that are revealed in the most entertaining of ways.
The ensemble cast, under the smart direction of Chris Fields, is superb. Rebecca Gray gives a rangy, tour de force performance as the not-who-she seems Tracy. The charismatic Graham Hamilton makes Roger a puffed up, over-confident, sexist narcissist. As the potential Tender Form Weight Loss Systems client, Colleen, Tara Karsian, recounts a deliciously detailed backstory of teenaged eroticism, before springing a game changing revelation. And Rodney To is utterly delightful as the deadpan Neal who just wants to do his job, until a revealing encounter with Roger in the men’s restroom changes the dynamics. In a subsequent scene, his stunning release of angst is one of the most intense, show-stopping episodes I have ever seen, drawing me forward in my seat, elbows on knees.
The production is well mounted with a visually entertaining scenic design by Amanda Knehans (lighting by Chris Wojcieszyn), consisting of back panels festooned with office paraphernalia that suggest different locations like the restroom and staff room. It unfolds in surprising ways. Costumes by Elena Flores support character and action. And the sound design by Jeff Gardner is excellent. The eclectic preshow playlist prompts toe tapping and head bobbing.
Echo Theater Company’s world premiere of One of the Nice Ones is a don’t-miss production for lovers of dark comedy with more than a soupçon of emotion. It continues through August 21 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.