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Review: Not-so-nice corporate shenanigans in Echo Theater’s ‘One of the Nice Ones’

A scene from "One of the Nice Ones," with cast members, from left, Rodney To, Graham Hamilton and Rebecca Gray.
(Darrett Sanders)

Veteran theater provocateur Erik Patterson stings once again in “One of the Nice Ones,” his new play presented by Echo Theater Company at the Atwater Village Theatre.

The title is a pointed misnomer. No one is remotely nice in this raucous comedy, which is set behind the scenes at a fly-by-night company called Tender Form Weight Loss Systems, a sterile corporate milieu nicely evoked in Amanda Knehans’ wittily offbeat set.

The wackiness commences when Roger (Graham Hamilton), the boss of this branch, summons one employee, Tracy (Rebecca Gray), a woman in a wheelchair suffering from a rare psychological syndrome, for her “performance review.” When Tracy learns that she’s actually being set up for dismissal, she frantically lobbies to keep her job, throwing herself on Roger’s mercy – and onto his desk for a comically steamy tryst.

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Roger’s momentary lapse may place him in the duplicitous Tracy’s power – but when it comes to Machiavellian scheming, Roger’s a past master. The two are soon locked in a fiery feud that threatens to incinerate everyone who gets in their way, including their hilariously hapless co-worker, Neal (Rodney To).

To reveal any more about the particulars of the plots is problematic. Patterson’s play contains more twists than a mountain switchback, including one involving a weight-loss customer (Tara Karsian). It’s a plot line that, in retrospect, seems startlingly unmotivated. Considering her unremitting nastiness, Tracy’s final burst of compassion for Roger, who has been nothing but horrible to her throughout, also seems unmotivated – as does Tracy’s belated “share” about the adolescent trauma that has made her so hateful.

Despite the fact that his narrative takes shortcuts and hits obvious snags, Patterson’s play is an exemplar of rudeness whose near-surreal vulgarity elicits torrents of laughter from his gobsmacked audience. Director Chris Fields and his superlative performers do full justice to their deliciously uncouth material, which is not for the prim. They have more fun than the law allows – and so do we.

"One of the Nice Ones" cast members, from left, Rodney To, Graham Hamilton and Tara Karsian.
“One of the Nice Ones” cast members, from left, Rodney To, Graham Hamilton and Tara Karsian.
(Darrett Sanders )

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“One of the Nice Ones”

Where: Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 21.

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Tickets: $30

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Info: (310) 307-3753, www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.

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