Long before the hilariously uncomfortable pseudo-reality of TV’s The Office, a quintet of blood thirsty, Slim Fast-addicted secretaries were competitively typing themselves into a frenzy of highly incorrect office politics on the downtown New York theater scene. The Five Lesbian Brothers’ The Secretaries which originally premiered in 1993 at the WOW Café in the East Village, tragic-comically presents the worst aspects of female bonding complete with the typical synchronized menses, backstabbing plots and underhanded cattiness as well as the more bizarre secret secretarial language of clicking and giggling. Oh, and there’s also a chainsaw.
Opening with a Greek chorus of administrative assistance woes and murderous foreshadowing, we enter the world of Cooney Lumber in Big Bone, Oregon, which has a reputation for hiring the best secretaries around. It’s no wonder then that the new girl Patty Johnson (Elizabeth Whitney), a recent honors graduate from secretarial school, would be ecstatic to work there.
Whitney, a gifted comic actress, embodies the enthusiasm of the not-yet burnt-out Patty with a perky innocence. Her co-workers, however, bear the scars of long-term cubicle occupancy. Dawn (Virginia Baeta), the office “gay,” puts the moves on Patty during what was supposed to be a platonic “magic fingers” session at a motel. Ashley (Karen Stanion), the ladder-climbing boss-pleaser, serves up insults masquerading as compliments. Insecure Peaches (Elizabeth A. Bell) begs Patty to slap her when she strays from her liquid diet.
Patty is soon invited into their strange sorority, BBOW (Big Bone Organization for Women). At the behest of office manager and leader of BBOW, Susan (Jamie Heinlein), who rules her subordinates with a precise psychological creepiness, the secretaries are on an enforced, communal Slim Fast diet, attend mandatory sleepovers involving games of Twister, sign celibacy contracts, and engage in disturbingly casual sexual harassment of each other. Patty’s full initiation comes when the fabulous lingerie-clad ensemble cast engages in their monthly sanguine bonding ritual.
Presented by TOSOS Theater, and directed by Mark Finley, the revival of The Secretaries at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, is a must-see part of the New York Fringe Festival. Advanced tickets are $15, $18 at the door available at http://www.fringenyc.org.
Only four performances left: August 23, 6:30pm, August 24, 7:15pm, August 26, 2:15pm and August 29 at noon. Visit http://www.thesecretariestosos.com for more info.