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James Cooper reviews “Office Hours”

Office Hours, playing now until June 30th at the Drayton Festival Theatre, is a witty play that really picks up speed, and churns out laughs as it progresses. Its six separate (yet related) scenes make watching it as fun and easy as eating six two-bite brownies, rather than the daunting ‘two pan-sized brownies’ that most plays are for more restless playgoers. Watching Office Hours almost feels like watching a really high-energy sitcom, except with a lot more people in my living room, and a much more satisfying laugh track. It’s certainly different from any play I’ve ever seen, and for that reason alone I think it’s worth the watch.
Not only does the focus of the plot completely switch from scene to scene, keeping things fresh, but the versatile cast members also switch between different goofball roles in this Norm Foster hit. The hilarious interconnectedness of it all is gradually revealed as clocks tick towards hometime for a washed-up reporter, a desperate producer, a lawyer with a secret, a jockey who’s kidding himself, a pushy salesman, and an incompetent psychiatrist who just wants to let her hair down. As the play progresses, more and more layers are added to the jokes, often requiring that the audience members stay on their toes if they want to experience the satisfaction of that giddy ‘aha! moment.’ However, if you’re looking for a night out with minimal thinking required, then fear not! Good ole’ mindless slapstick abounds in this play: from a dripping gherkin pickle to a jockey’s belly-bulging denim overalls. As with any theatre production, even if humor isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other aspects to appreciate.
I personally enjoy the beautifully constructed set almost as much as the comedy. The set’s exposed brick, reclaimed wood, and modern decor is enough to make current house hunters swoon, or at least so the Property Brothers lead me to believe. Nearing the climax of the play, the window work with artificial ‘natural light’ is particularly impressive, and when one man’s out on the ledge, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Scrupulous detail is paid to the changes from one office to another, and though the differences are small, they are quite effective. The scene transitions, done by janitorial staff under mood-lighting and paired with cleverly chosen, groovy music, make a typically boring part of watching plays into a pleasure.
Clever pop-culture references spackle the show and keep things lively, but it is the thick dramatic irony throughout the entire show that makes it such a joy to watch. The characters themselves are rarely aware of the hilarity of their own ridiculous situation. Only the audience can see the connection that makes the lives of these people such a hoot! So, if you’re so inclined, why not feel ‘in’ on the jokes too, and come see Office Hours at the Drayton Festival Theatre, running until June 30th.

Find tickets at www.draytonentertainment.com/office-hours

James Cooper (Coupe) can be seen at 100 of events all over North Wellington, Southern Grey and are all summer long in the River Runer.