The strongest kind of comedy is that which is born from reality — be it a reflection of something inside ourselves or a deft illustration of something familiar from the world at large. In Ed Simpson’s witty and insightful new play, “Additional Particulars,” that reality comes in the form of the hopes and dreams of four employees of the $ave-a-Bundle discount mart in Randolphsburg, Penn. It may not be our lives, but it is a recognizable world, and Simpson’s humor is grounded in that familiarity. His perceptive writing and clear knack for small-town small talk — the kind that walks for miles in wide circles around what’s really trying to be said until it can finally work its way down to a single kernel of truth — makes “Additional Particulars” not just a very funny show, but an unexpectedly poignant and decidedly human one as well.
Constructed as two related one-acts, “Additional Particulars” first concerns Warren Grippo (David Wells, in a beautifully balanced performance), $ave-a-Bundle’s self-important, slightly nerdy assistant manager, and Glenda Balitski (Susan Mackin), the store’s mousy housewares clerk who’s about to be honored as the next employee-of-the-month. Warren surprises Glenda at her tidy apartment to share the exciting news, and the resulting conversation/celebration (complete with soda and spicy Doritos) starts to take a nervous, tender turn as the blushing, stammering Warren slowly screws up the courage to admit the underlying reason for his visit.
The second act revolves around a pair of $ave-a-Bundle warehouse workers — dim-witted Kenny (Kirk Baily) and lackadaisical Raymond (Kevin Brief). Kenny’s certainly not the brightest bulb on the string, but he’s a responsible worker with a family to support who does his job without complaint — unlike Raymond, who’s about to be canned for not carrying his weight. Their hilarious lunchtime guy-talk takes a sudden shattering turn when Raymond’s constant blabbering about wanting a dream-life with a wife and kids pushes Kenny over an unseen edge.
Simpson writes with an unusual degree of humanity, and his script is buoyed by Michael Lilly’s sensitive direction and an excellent quartet of actors who breathe an extraordinary level of simple honesty into their average characters. “Dreams are only things that happen to you when you’re unconscious,” Raymond tells Kenny. But in “Additional Particulars,” Simpson, Lilly and a fine cast make those dreams conscious and real.