Off-Broadway Theater Review: BULL (59E59 Theaters)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on May 1, 2013

in Theater-New York

WHITE-COLLAR BULLYING

Mike Bartlett’s play Bull begins with a team of three white-collar salespeople, Tony (Adam James), Isobel (Eleanor Matsuura) and Thomas (Sam Throughton) awaiting the arrival of Carter (Neil Stuke), their supervisor, who will interview each of them and then decide which one he will let go. What ensues is Tony and Isobel’s systematic domination and destruction of a helpless and hapless Thomas with ridicule and criticism, snide comments and sarcastic remarks.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema NY review of BULL, Brits Off Broadway 59E59 Theaters.

What Mr. Bartlett’s one-act lacks in subtext and depth it makes up for with sheer power and dynamism, boasting brisk dialogue and sharply defined characters. With outstanding performances and Clare Lizzimore’s deft direction, the 55-minute production – part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters – feels like a ride on a bullet: explosive and breakneck with a violent, flesh-tearing jolt at the end. The action takes place in an office suite next to a water cooler. With Soutra Gilmour’s traverse stage set up like a ring – half the audience standing around it and half sitting up in the “bleachers” – what we are seeing feels less like a play about office politics and more like a caged match to the death, which, at least metaphorically, it is: One of the songs playing before the start of the show is Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema NY review of BULL, Brits Off Broadway 59E59 Theaters.There are no twists or turns or ups or downs in Bull; most surprising is just how predictable the ending turns out to be. The victim Thomas is helpless pray, defenseless against the claws and fangs of his tormentors; one never gets the sense that he’s capable of turning things around, of gaining any sort of advantage. Nonetheless, the show is directed and acted with such passion and precision from start to finish that it becomes like the titular beast with horns that dangerously charges towards a red cape: exciting and utterly compelling.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema NY review of BULL, Brits Off Broadway 59E59 Theaters.photos by Carol Rosegg

Bull
presented by Brits Off Broadway
59E59 Theaters
scheduled to end on June 2, 2013
for tickets, call 212-279-4200
or visit http://www.59e59.org

for more info, visit Brits Off Broadway

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