PHOTO CALL: Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jeffry Denman, Michele Pawk and More Celebrate Assistance Opening

News   PHOTO CALL: Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jeffry Denman, Michele Pawk and More Celebrate Assistance Opening
Bobby Steggert, Michael Esper, Sue Jean Kim, Virginia Kull, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Amy Rosoff play satellites spinning around an unseen, bullying international mogul in the New York City premiere of Leslye Headland's Assistance, opened Feb. 28 at Playwrights Horizons.

Trip Cullman (A Small Fire, The Drunken City) directs the play by the author of Bachelorette, which he also helmed Off-Broadway. Performances continue to March 11 at PH's Mainstage Theater on West 42nd Street. Previews began Feb. 3.

In the darkly comic work about ambition and celebrity and the allure of power, the characters are twentysomethings who want to be a part of Daniel Weisinger's empire. If they can survive being in the Trump-like Daniel's 24/7 crew of underlings (ordering cars, shipping prescriptions, managing his family schedule, guessing his every next whim), then they might move onto a middle-management position. Their vague brass-ring future title is "director," which apparently means security with less stress.

Seemingly most at-risk is Nick, played by Michael Esper (American Idiot, The Lyons), who is routinely humiliated by his boss. Newcomer Nora, played by Virginia Kull, is there to share the pain, and climb higher — if she can stand the pressure. The play is not for the squeamish; if you have dealt with a bullying boss, your blood pressure may spike. Here's how Playwrights Horizons bills Assistance: "For these young assistants, life is an endless series of humiliations at the hands of their hellacious boss, a powerful uber-magnate. In rare moments of calm when the phone calls stop rolling, Nick and Nora and their traumatized co-workers question whether all their work will lead to success — or just more work. [It's] a biting, high-octane satire about our attraction to power and what we're willing to sacrifice to stay in its orbit."

Headland is a Los Angeles-based playwright and screenwriter. She is the writer/director of the Seven Deadly Plays series, which was produced by and premiered at the IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles. The series includes Cinephilia (lust), Bachelorette (gluttony), Assistance (greed), Surfer Girl (sloth), Reverb (wrath) and The Accidental Blonde (envy). Her Bachelorette also enjoyed a sold-out, extended run at Second Stage Theatre Uptown in July 2010.

Assistance's production team includes scenic designer David Korins, costume designer Jessica Pabst, lighting designer Ben Stanton and sound designer Jill BC Du Boff. Production stage manager is Kyle Gates. Choreography is by Jeffry Denman.

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