Review: Pocket Playhouse’s “Waiting” is short, but clever.

The lights came up at the Pocket Playhouse Thursday afternoon to a sparse office set, sickly-sweet ‘elevator music’ playing in the background. In the Pocket’s production of “Waiting,” directed by Sarah Etherton and written by Ethan Coen, purgatory takes on this unusual form.

“Waiting” was short (just under thirty minutes!), funny and ultimately a little unsettling. The play followed one unfortunate young woman, known only as Nelson, as she battled the mind-numbing dullness and bureaucratic red tape standing between her and heaven. The resolution, a not wholly unexpected twist, was mildly clever and definitely cringe-worthy.

As Nelson, Leah Bierly successfully portrayed several stages of escalating insanity. Though I imagine some would have even more severe reactions to thousands of years in a door-less waiting room, Bierly was funny and sympathetic.

She wasn’t alone in her excellent performance. The entire cast of “Waiting” made the very most of their short time on the stage. David Etchepare and Michael Walker were both extremely well-cast as McMartin and Sebatacheck. Their dry, well-delivered lines garnered some of the loudest laughs of the show. Aimee Hamilton, too, was engaging as the faceless Secretary with perfectly-timed one-liners.

The show’s scenes were short, and the blackout transitions between them sometimes felt choppy. For one, the sickly-sweet, repetitive background melody was much harder to bear when a dark stage was the only visual stimulation, plus long pauses slowed the pace of the short play. All in all, though, “Waiting” was well-directed, and the clean, entertaining performances made the play an enjoyable, if not immersive experience.

As the actors left the stage after curtain call, I asked myself: was “Waiting” a subtle jab at the limitations of bureaucratic systems? An exhibition of a slow decline into insanity? Or maybe simply a lighthearted comedy? No matter how you choose to interpret it, you’ll walk out chuckling to yourself with elevator music stuck in your head.

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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.