Room 17B Goes to Work


Any office can turn into a clown show on a busy day, but Room 17B is always a circus. Serious-looking gray file drawers might line the walls from floor to ceiling, and suited-up white guys jockey for the boss’s approval. But this administrative outpost also boasts a xylophone and gong—among other professional tools filed under “F” for Fun. The evening opens with a ballet of bumbling bureaucrats, but soon those drawers open the way to neo-vaudeville charades.

Room 17B, devised by Mike Dobson and Joel Jeske and directed by Mark Lonergan, consists entirely of short sketches and mimed bits, sometimes involving spectators—nothing to worry about, despite jokes about selling premium “safe” seats. Many of these innocuous gags fly, thanks to the four clowns’ focus and flair—especially the Beijing Opera spoof and anything else built around music. Several sequences—like a pantomimed Demolition Derby between rival blimp pilots—fizzle out with too much dead time or silence. Normally you can count me among those who think clowns are cloying, but I found these fellows (the creators plus Danny Gardner and Brent McBeth) sweet and appealingly fresh-faced. Their brand of physical-comedy is not for the schtick-averse—but if ordinary employment leaves you in the doldrums, this might be just the kind of company you need.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 26, 2011

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