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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alchemist Theatre's Witty 'Help Wanted'

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Making its debut this past weekend, Aaron Kopec's Help Wanted is a deeply witty allegory about human desire at the dawn of the information age. The story, set in a 1940s workplace, cleverly weaves aspects of IBM's early history with sexual desire and office politics.

Clayton Hamburg is suitably intense as Rand Dandrich, the story's intellectual hero. He's a neurotic numbers man with the potential to be an early forerunner of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, if he could only gain the assertiveness needed to take control. With precise balance, Anna Figlesthaler plays Marjory Lotus, the woman who helps Dandrich get there. An enterprising woman who would have excelled as an executive in the modern business world, Lotus defers to the oppression of the era and becomes Dandrich's secretary. She sees his potential and helps him achieve it in a way that liberates them both, through the exploration of an interesting sensual and sexual relationship. Hamburg and Figlesthaler have strong chemistry, as Dandrich transforms from a nebbish and neurotic man to the visionary head of a multinational corporation. Hamburg handles the transformation with enough humanity to keep it grounded in reality.

An excellent supporting cast aids the central relationship. Michael Keiley summons comic gravitas as the head of the corporation. He's priceless as the iconic man who built the company with his bare hands. Randall T. Anderson puts in a savvy performance as a '40s company man. Kopec himself makes a turn as the sleaziest guy in the office. A sharp Erin Hartman rounds out the cast as a steely young office worker who serves as the sleazy guy's secretary.

Alchemist Theatre's Help Wanted runs through June 23 at 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For ticket reservations, visit www.thealchemisttheatre.com.