Padua Playwrights artistic director Guy Zimmerman has scripted a flawed but still compelling minimalist view of what he feels is a gargantuan force of evil that is constantly shaping and reshaping the structure of life on earth. As a director, he underscores the horrific inevitability of corporate imperialism.

Padua Playwrights artistic director Guy Zimmerman has scripted a flawed but still compelling minimalist view of what he feels is a gargantuan force of evil that is constantly shaping and reshaping the structure of life on earth. As a director, he underscores the horrific inevitability of corporate imperialism that terrorizes and subjugates humanity. Philosophically on the same stylistic wavelength as earlier cutting-edge Padua Playwrights works, “The Inside Job” needs to acquire more substance if it is to move on to the next level.

Zimmerman has distilled his worldw view into the persona of “downwardly mobile” Max (Barry del Sherman), a scandalized corporate executive whose top-of-the-world career was abruptly undone by Enron-like shenanigans that diminished his formerly opulent lifestyle. Sharing Max’s space — a low-rung, sparsely furnished condo in the San Fernando Valley — is his traumatized socialite wife, Victoria (Jessica Margaret Dean), who hasn’t spoken a word for two months. Hoping to revive his wife’s sociability in time to attend what he hopes will be a career-reviving party, Max invites home a young woman named Heidi (Holly Ramos). It seems the last phrase uttered by Victoria before she went silent was, “Went to see Heidi.”

Helming his own work, Zimmerman certainly believes less is more. Often beginning and ending each scene with a frozen tableau of unconnected personas staring off into space, the helmer painstakingly connects the dots that link these three together.

Zimmerman offers tantalizing droplets of information, alluding to coercions and corruptions in places like El Salvador and Guatemala. His antihero Max is particularly fixated on an all-powerful character named Remner, a former college acquaintance from Rutgers U., an inferior soul who went to South America and returned with a Texas drawl and a transcendent aura of superiority. It is Remner who has absorbed all of Max’s power and status, including Max’s former mansion where the party is going to be held.

The dialogue and the interplay between the characters are often compelling, but what Zimmerman fails to do is offer any cohesion to this unrelenting tale of woe. His agenda is tossed at the audience like isolated slivers from a broken mirror. They are little triumphs of fact that offer no clear picture on their own. At one point, Max refers to the power class by saying, “They never admit they’re wrong. They just declare victory and move on.” That is in essence what Zimmerman is doing, declaring each isolated triumph of perspective and moving on. The end result is a fuzzy, impressionistic entity whose parts are much more than its whole.

Del Sherman is properly bloodless as the elitist Max, who contemptuously declares, “I worship nothing.” Unfortunately, he isn’t always facile with Zimmerman’s often complicated dialogue, occasionally struggling to maintain Max’s icy facade while stumbling over a word or phrase.

Dean exudes patrician sophistication as a socialite whose mind cannot absorb her current degraded social status. She impressively communicates the bewilderment of a lost soul who only occasionally can assimilate what is happening right in front of her. Her eventual awakening is summed up in her softly stated final declaration to her husband, “Max, I want to leave here and never come back.”

Ramos is outstanding as the sensuous mystery woman Heidi, who appears to have insinuated herself into all aspects of Max’s and Victoria’s lives. She’s also quite believable as a potentially lethal ally of the unseen Remner. Ramos’ Heidi never fails to connect to whatever level of insecurity Max is suffering while seamlessly segueing into a much-needed liaison between Max and Victoria.

The stark production values of Jeffery Atherton (sets), Robert Oriol (lights, sound and original music) and Tina Preston (costumes) are certainly appropriate to Zimmerman’s staging.

The Inside Job

2100 Square Feet;; 72 seats; $20 top

Production

Padua Playwrights and Daniel Lynch Millner present a play in one act, written and directed by Guy Zimmerman.

Creative

Sets, Jeffrey Atherton; lights, sound, original music, Robert Oriol; costumes, Tina Preston. Opened, reviewed Nov. 8, 2003; runs through Dec. 7. Running time: 80 MINS.

Cast

Max - Barry del Sherman Victoria - Jessica Margaret Dean Heidi - Holly Ramos

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