Loosely inspired by Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Dan Dietz’s “tempOdyssey” is an absurd saga of a murderous office temp that made its awkward bow at the New Jersey Rep in the guise of a contemporary comic romance/fantasy. Short on laughs and dense with allegorical excursions into mythological parallels, the play is a tedious puzzlement likely to leave audiences scratching their heads.
Little Genny, gamely acted by Stephanie Thompson, is a former backwoods Georgia peach who fled rural life for a fresh start as a temp receptionist for a Seattle firm in order “to shake the grits” out of her ears. Genny encounters an obsessively manipulative former employee (Andrea Gallo), a nepotistic employer (Ian August) and an elusively chatty corpse (Michael Nathanson).
Adding to the strange brew is gangly David Sitler as Genny’s incestuous father, who warns that everyone is a victim “pinned to misery by the whims of the world.” Genny is so disillusioned with life she plans to blow up the building and a sizable portion of downtown Seattle.
So busy with an incessant series of rhetorical gabfests is poor Genny that she doesn’t even have time to relieve herself. In a totally unnecessary — and tasteless — bit of stagecraft, a commode is brought forth to serve her purpose.
Despite Dietz’s strained humor, a valiant cast throws itself into the absurdities with comic abandon. The attractiveThompson makes much of the action palatable and is given keen cartoon support from the other players.
Sturgis Warner’s fluid staging to some degree counters a script that wallows in awkwardness.
A maze of file cabinets serves as the setting for various locations in a high-rise office building, and the use of an elevator door makes for some clever scene changes.