BOB’S HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY
The first half of this one-hour-and-forty-minutes show is very funny, and even includes some good topical political humor. My friend Ashley and I laughed through most of it, with all of my notes being very positive.
But then Bob’s Holiday Office Party devolves into lower than high school humor, and becomes downright offensive at one point. When the rest of the characters not only started making fun of a woman who’s mentally-ill, (or possibly physically sick in some way,)* but also throwing things at her, that was it for me. And I noticed that Ashley had stopped laughing, too. By the end of the play, she was actually seething. *[Note: I realized later that I’m actually not really sure exactly what the woman’s situation is; I just know it’s a very sad one. The actors talk over each other so much in her scene that it’s possible they explained what’s going on with that character, but neither Ashley nor I heard it.]
So, as always, I’m going to be fair and give you the yin-and-yang of it all, and you can decide for yourselves if it’s your cup of tea. (I actually had to have my own cuppa when I got home to soothe myself from the insensitivities of this show.)
On the positive side, I was put in a great mood right off the bat, as I entered the theatre and saw the festive set by Amanda Knehans. I’m sure it’s meant to be holiday overkill, but it made me feel like we were peeking-in on a real small-town office party.
Then a pleasant woman, (who turned-out to be in the show,) came out on stage to greet the audience. She asked how many had seen the show before, and I was very surprised that about two-thirds of them had. Some people had even seen it five or ten times, which I cannot imagine, now that I’ve seen it!
Bob’s Holiday Office Party is set in a one-man insurance office in a little town in Iowa, where the owner, Bob, (of course,) is having his annual Christmas fete. It features a cast of five men and four women, with one of the latter playing two roles. Some of the actors have been doing this play for decades!!!
The performers are all good. Since I’ve never seen any of them before, it made it easier to envision them as their characters. I noted that they’re all much older actors and actresses than I usually see around town, which is perhaps why they’re confident enough to not push too hard in their performances, which I appreciate. It seems that a lot of younger ones in other productions are saying “look at me” with every line.
But, because of those ages, there really needs to be a slight adjustment to the script. The characters say that they haven’t seen one of them in twenty-five years, which they also mention was back in high school. But most of the actors are all close to seventy! That means that it would have been fifty years since they had seen each other, not even close to twenty-five! Bob’s Holiday Office Party has been going on for twenty-five years now, so it’s time to change that part of the narrative. If they can update the topical political humor each time out, I’m sure they can also change that one word!
So, as I said, that first half is really funny; it provides lots of laughs, even though the first fifteen minutes are one scene between just two of the men. Like a real party, I kept wondering when the action would get going!
And then it finally did, with mostly amusing characters. Bob, played by Rob Elk, (who’s also one of the duo of writers,) is perfect as the voice of reason. And Mark Fite, as the stoner of the group, is a riot, for the most part. (Until he starts throwing things at the unfortunate woman I mentioned at the top.) After all this time together, he was even cracking-up his cohorts in the performance that I saw.
The theatre sells booze before the show, and I could hear those alcohol-fueled guffaws all the way through. That bit of “holiday cheer” seems to be a part of the whole experience for many. But I hate seeing drunk people, both in person or on a stage, so once all but two of the characters got sickeningly inebriated, the show sort-of fell apart for me. And I was horrified watching the cast drink out of the same cups, bottles, and cans; I would have felt the same way even if Covid was not still running rampant. I cringed every time they did it.
Another thing that made me cringe is that, to demonstrate just how dumb his character–the town sheriff–is, Joe Keyes, (who’s also one of the writers,) kept mispronouncing “larynx” as “lar-a-nix.” While that’s a great example of utter stupidity, that imbecility is like nails on a chalkboard to me.
I assume that Bob’s Holiday Office Party is billed as an irreverent comedy, but there’s still nothing humorous about a mentally-ill person to begin with, and definitely not about the abuse of her! (As you can tell, I just can’t get over the soullessness of that bit!)
Then, towards the end, that actress comes out again, but as a hooker (or the town floozy or something like that) this time. I heard Bob softly mention that she’s the twin sister of the other character, but not everyone caught it. Ashley definitely didn’t, nor did a few others I overheard discussing the show on the way out. The hooker character is bad enough on her own, but if, as Ashley thought, she was the same woman as before, and was different now because she has bipolar disorder, that would be even worse. So they need to make that distinction much clearer.
So there you have it—all sides of the story. If it were not for the twin sisters’ parts in the show, I could recommend it, even with the several alcoholic characters, the depiction of whom is never entertaining to me. If it were presented in acts, I would say to go for Act I and leave at intermission. But if everything else I said attracts you, go for it. And make your own decision on what you witness. After all, if so many people are making multiple returns to Bob’s Holiday Office Party, you just might enjoy it, as well.
Bob’s Holiday Office Party running through December 18, 2022
The Beverly Hills Playhouse
254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills
You are the most honest person on the internet, Karen! I love when you write reviews like this one, with many sides to the story. Keep up the good work!
By the way, I saw this show, too, and I agree with you 100% about that horrible part!
I saw the show last week-end, too, and felt exactly the same way as you and your friend did. The scene with that woman knocked the laugh right off of my face. Thanks for the honest review.
Finally! We’ve been waiting for someone to tell the truth about Bobs for a long time! Leave it to Karen!