Written by Greg Leos. Campus Circle, Vol. 9/Issue 4 March 3-16, 1999
"BOILER ROOM" A HOT COMMODITY
THE TIRED CLICHE, 'GREAT THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES' has been given new life thanks to Dan Fante's Boiler Room. The tiny Actors Art Theater near the mid-Wilshire District can barely contain the large amount of energy and spirit that this terrific production provides for its audience.
The setting is the Santa Monica offices of First National Copier Products. Judy Dunn (Adelaide Vaughn), Frankie DeRosa (Frank Uzzolino), 'Doc' Franklin (Clayton Landey) and new hire Jeff Kawasaki (Phinneas Kiyomura) are telemarketers under the tutelage of Eddy Kammegian (Douglas Coler), the dynamic but slimy company founder and president. His staff is an "elite swat team" of sales "commandos" that overcharge, underservice and essentially scam unwitting customers.
In the midst of a yearly sales contest-with a trip to Paris at stake-top salesman Frank suspects that 'Doc' will make yet another last minute win under suspicious circumstances. It's when Frank confronts the sales manager, Dallas Murphy (Jimmie F. Skaggs), about his suspicions that tempers begin to flare. Newcomer Nancy Spizer (Susan Ziegler) adds to the dysfunctional mix as the naive college student who has come to observe Eddy and his employees perform their sales magic.
Jolene Adams directs Boiler Room splendidly, skillfulIly leading a production that hits with the impact of a head-on traffic collision. The sales group's relentless mantra to close, close, close on every telephone call is one that should concern anyone who has received those phone calls at home. Likewise, when Skaggs, as the smarmy sales manager Dallas Murphy, screams out into the audience, imploring his crew of sales people to close yet another sale at any cost, it's enough to strike cold fear into the heart of anyone who has ever sold anything for a living.
Each of the performances in Boiler Room is extremely convincing and brings greater life and energy to Fante's already quite passionate writing. Fante has created textured characters that have all of their rough spots wonderfully in full view; he has certainly provided the actors here with much to work with. But Vaughn, Uzzolino, Coler and the rest still somehow manage to take Boiler Room to an even higher level.
Particularly so is Coler as the smooth talking, former addict Eddy, who commands the stage with an impressive presence and a keen sense of the inner workings of this demented character. Also, Uzzolino's amazing portrayal of the frenetic, desperate Frankie often leaves one gasping for air.
Boiler Room may be overshadowed by the offerings from the larger theaters like the Ahmanson, or even the stuffy Pasadena Playhouse. But that would he a true shame, as Boiler Room is a production that simply should not be missed.