The Daily Grind: Special 2-Hour Premiere | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Daily Grind: Special 2-Hour Premiere 

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The Daily Grind: Special 2-Hour Premiere, Punch the Clock Productions, at the Theatre Building. In this ambitious project--a spoof of office life in a small Chicago advertising agency--Punch the Clock Productions intends to create a "live serial," with a new episode each month, that incorporates true stories of office horror submitted by audience members. But though The Daily Grind may fill a need for original comedy about today's working conditions, the opening episode lacks the sharpness of satire and even the fine-tuning of successful television sitcoms.

Head writer Dirk Voetberg has set up the character foils to make sparks fly--an abusive boss vs. a take-no-shit secretary, a too-perfect new female employee vs. her clumsy male nemesis--but his characters are so one-sided we rarely glimpse their humanity. In classic comedy, from Moliere's plays to I Love Lucy, the characters' inner struggles are what make us empathize with them. But The Daily Grind's secretary calls her boss "asshole" to his face with no repercussions; and her bitterness toward her boss and the pointless tasks he assigns her are not struggled with, they merely exist.

The actors, however, have a lot of fun and do their best with the material. David W. Bryson as Jamaal the mailroom clerk offers a hilarious portrayal of a slacker metalhead, and Robyn Okrant and William Ladew-ski play a host of wacky characters and make each cameo distinct. Moments in this show realize the characters' great comic potential. Director Craig Ricci Shaynak uses the space creatively but needs to clean up some of the sloppy physical shtick. Fortunately, the initial episode's second act is much funnier than the exposition-laden first, providing hope that as The Daily Grind goes on, the product will improve.

--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

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