Smoke and Mirrors

READ ALL ABOUT IT Dirden, left, gets the news from Stas May.

READ ALL ABOUT IT Dirden, left, gets the news from Stas May. Photograph: Joan Marcus

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

If Kafka scripted an episode of The Office, it might resemble Joseph Goodrich’s bizarre and often intriguing Smoke and Mirrors, set in the smoking room of a nebulous American corporation. What begins as a keen exploration of workplace minutiae soon becomes an invective against political deception. It’s all held together by director Nick Faust and seven members of the Flea Theater’s fine young acting company, the Bats.

Actors play various office drones, from security guards to lab technicians in creepy blood-splattered white coats, who gather in the confined chamber over the course of a day to unwind, read, shoot the breeze and, naturally, light up. Awkward pauses are followed by verbal detours. The most exciting event of the day is the announcement of free cupcakes in the cafeteria.

This situational cleverness soon wears thin, and that’s when Goodrich changes course. Terry (Jason Dirden) earns his colleagues’ wrath by burning, not wearing, the mini-American flag that adorns his cupcake, and the space soon becomes a dark interrogation room (and prison) where Anita (Susan Hyon) is queried about an inflammatory antiwar e-mail. This is recognizable territory, but the solid production and potent turns by Hyon and Dirden as pot-stirrers who challenge the wrong authority take it beyond politics as usual. — Diane Snyder

Flea Theater . By Joseph Goodrich. Dir. Nick Faust. With ensemble cast. 1hr 25mins. No intermission.