"I'm not bitter," explains the title character in thecomedy "The Understudy." In fact, he explains it repeatedly, you know, in that way that makes you doubt the truthfulness of that statement.
Harry (Josh Geoghagan) has reason to feel that way: He's a struggling actor tired of watching talentless guys make it big in witless action films. And now he's the lowest of the low: He's an understudy.
"You have no rights," stage manager Roxanne (Michele Feren) hisses at him more than once as she attempts to lead a rehearsal of an "undiscovered masterpiece" by surrealist authorFranz Kafka.
Theresa Rebeck sets her comedy in the world of theater, but this very funny character-based romp is for anyone frustrated with office politics, angry that the boss's pet always gets ahead, tired of sucking up, aggravated when "They" make bad decisions.
Of course, because the story unfolds in the theater, there's some added drama. Harry was previously engaged to Roxanne — and broke her heart. And he's understudy to one of those action-film actors he despises, swaggering Jake (Brian Brightman).
It's one of those plays where everyone discovers a little bit about themselves, their preconceptions and their attitudes. But those sparkling moments of revelation are just the fizz in the bubbly mix of emotions and egos that fuels the comedy.
Geoghagan, the slackerish hero of 2010 Fringe Festival hit "Ironhead," has his lovable loser routine down pat. And there's fire in him when he rails against injustice or finds passion in Kafka's play.
He also has a natural, believable camaraderie with Brightman's Jake, that sort of physical awkwardness and restless jockeying for position between two men meeting for the first time, whether in the office or on the playing field.
Brightman makes an impressive entrance, chomping gum, clutching a Starbuck's coffee. And he, too, finds depths in Jake's braggadocio.
As the woman trying to hold things together, Feren cajoles, snaps, flatters and — best — roars at her actors and the comically never-seen Laura, an incompetent "stoner" running lights and sounds for the rehearsal.
Director Timothy Williams lets each actor have plenty of moments to shine so you suddenly find amid the laughter at their follies that you care about what happens to these folks. And the next time you have a bad day at the office, you just might want to break into a silly dance.
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•What: 'The Understudy'
•Length: 1:30, no intermission
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays and Aug. 24; 3 p.m. Sundays; through Aug. 28
•Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 105 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando
•Tickets: $24; $22 students and seniors