November 14, 2003





'Inside Job' firm in its core beliefs


Guy Zimmerman's "The Inside Job" at least has the courage of its own presumptions. It wastes no energy arguing the points it takes as foundational truths: Soulless corporate crooks are our true rulers, the Enron scandals presage a lawless republic ruled by brute force, and Texas is evil's hell mouth.


Zimmerman simply imagines--in the bleached, arid, often haunting manner we've come to recognize as the Padua Playwrights style--a cool, matter-of-fact apocalypse, reflected by three of its unwitting but all-too-willing handmaidens.


Actually, one of the three knows more about what's afoot than she first lets on. Heidi (Holly Ramos), a frosted-blond urchin in black boots and tiny dress, emerges as the unlikely nexus among Max (Barry del Sherman), a disgraced but unrepentant white-collar plunderer; Victoria (Jessica Margaret Dean), his icily grasping wife; and the offstage Renner, a murderous tycoon ardently feared and admired by the others.


In a series of portentous blackout scenes punctuated by Robert Oriol's eerie sound cues (Oriol also designed the stark lighting, Jeffrey Atherton the primary-color set), Max chatteringly plots a comeback, Victoria alternates between catatonia and calculation, and Heidi knowingly manipulates both, to enigmatic ends.


Zimmerman's direction is sure and supple, his text tight, teasing and self-contained, and his cast strikingly in tune with his unblinkingly bleak vision.


The opening night audience seemed similarly attuned, particularly to such observations as, "Stupidity in foreign affairs is the mark of a great power; only the truly powerful can afford to be stupid," or, "These people never admit they're wrong--they just declare victory and move on." If that's your cup of iced tea, it is served crisply here, without sweetener.

Rob Kendt


"The Inside Job," presented by Padua Playwrights Productions at 2100 Square Feet, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 7. $20. (323) 692-2652. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.