Rob Ackerman's provocative workplace play, Tabletop, a summer hit for The Working Theatre, is being extended to Aug. 13 at the Dance Theatre Workshop in Manhattan.
The company devoted to telling stories about and for "working people" offers a staging, directed by Connie Grappo, that puts its actors in an environmental setting, a studio where "tabletop" commercials are filmed. The back wall of the DTW's Bessie Schönberg Theatre is exposed to show the machinery of the urban studio where beverage and food commercials are shot ("tabletop" is an industry term for the business of the close-up shooting of such ads).
Performances began July 8 (with an opening of July 11) and were to continue to Aug. 5, but solid reviews (including a New York Times anointment) and enthusiastic audiences will keep the show going to Aug. 13, when it must close due to the company's Equity mini-contract. There is hope of a larger commercial life for the piece, which ferociously addresses universal workplace issues and conflicts: The stifling of creativity, insidious bigotry, management vs. labor, young ideas vs. established techniques, selling out and more.
Tabletop shines the light behind the scenes of TV commercial film studio where they provide product shots -- the close-ups of items that ads promote. Turning 180 degrees from Chekhov, who saw his plays as comedies misinterpreted by audiences as tragedies, Ackerman said in a statement, "this is a play about pain, but people always seem to find it funny." But the play has a universality, as the former tabletop technician added: "If you ever had a bad boss, this show is cheap therapy." Ackerman's other works include the play-turned-movie Origin of the Species.
Grappo (Belmont Avenue Social Club) directs the 15th season presentation for The Working Theatre. The cast includes Rob Bartlett (author and star of last season's More to Love and best known for his sidekick work on radio's "Imus in the Morning"), Harvy Blanks, Jack Koenig, Dean Nolen, Elizabeth Rice and Jeremy Webb.
Tickets are $20-$25. The Schönberg Theatre is at 219 W. 19th St. For reservations, call (212) 691-6500.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Ernio Hernandez