A terrific ensemble cast is unable to rise above a sloppy and overwritten script in this play about a group of advertising agency employees who gather after work at a local tavern for mutual grousing and back-stabbing.

A terrific ensemble cast is unable to rise above a sloppy and overwritten script in this play about a group of advertising agency employees who gather after work at a local tavern for mutual grousing and back-stabbing. Writers Cristie Dowda and Andy Ellis have apparently set out to enlighten audiences about the evil, duplicitous world of advertising, where amoral geniuses, hacks and con-men and women set out to fool us with misleading slogans and illusive come-ons.

Are we shocked to learn, for example, that some of these folks don’t really believe in the products or ideas that they are promoting, but instead are motivated by ambition, lust, greed and other disgusting human emotions? The writers trot out a dozen stock characters to enact several well-traveled storylines that all point to the moral corruption of the advertising business.

Deanna Gordon (Dulcy Rogers), a reporter for an advertising trade paper, arrives at the bar to interview superstar creatives Brian (David Jacobson) and Stewart (Clayton Norcross), who are responsible for several brilliant ad campaigns. Chiming in with their own jealous and generally cynical comments are account executives Melissa (Challen Cates), Carl (Paul Perri) and their British supervisor Audrey (Carolyn Seymour). The rest of the ad-agency peanut gallery are the other creative types Dennis (Rafer Weigel), Peter (Brad Greenquist), Brad (Jeff LeBeau) and Kerri (Megan Hickey) who lob sniping comments at their colleagues or in the general direction of the universe. Observing all this catty shop talk are the barmaid Jenny (Claudette Mink) and a mysterious barfly Harry (Cliff Cozens). This lengthy, talky barroom play waltzes through cliched work relationships and predictable plot points that range from sleeping with the receptionist to losing the big account.

From the outset, there is very little to care about in all the griping and groaning, whether it be the latest round of self-congratulatory awards or the big new client. Even the characters themselves don’t seem to care much about what they do. While the tone of the piece is obviously designed as a comment on the overall degradation of the advertising business, and the arena might be fertile territory in the hands of a David Mamet or another playwright with a darker sensibility, these writers turn it into so much pabulum, despite the best efforts of a fine cast. In a series of second-act monologues, as well as in some of the barroom exchanges, several actors get a brief chance to shine, including Jacobson, Norcross, Greenquist, LeBeau, Cates, Perri and Weigel.

However, one can only admire their efforts as they try to breathe some life into largely lifeless material. Director Craig Tapscott does an excellent job with the cast, but would have been better advised to take the show back to the workshop for extensive script revisions before launching the current production.

Agency

Coast Playhouse; 99 seats; $22 top

Production

Satori Prods./Betty Barlia presents a comedy-drama in two acts by Cristie Dowda and Andy Ellis. Directed by Craig Tapscott.

Creative

Set, Robert L. Smith; lighting , Joe Morrissey; costumes, Tracy Redwood. Opened, reviewed Oct. 12, 1996; runs through Nov. 17. Running time: 2 hours, 10 min.

Cast

Cast: Claudette Mink (Jenny), Cliff Cozens (Harry), Dulcy Rogers (Deanna Gordon), Paul Perri (Carl Delaney), Challen Cates (Melissa Benedict), David Jacobson (Brian Richardson), Carolyn Seymour (Audrey King), Rafer Weigel (Dennis Gordon), Megan Hickey (Kerri), Brad Greenquist (Peter McLaughlin), Jeff LeBeau (Brad Decker), Clayton Norcross (Stewart Dunn).
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