Anthony Clarvoe's Pick Up Ax is a fast-moving comedy about two young men who run a company that makes computer games of the ``Dungeons and Dragons'' variety. To do this, they need computer chips, and just when competitors form a monopoly and block their access to these chips, in walks this devilish ``suit'' with a beard and an MBA and ``explores options'' for dealing with their corporate foes. These range from negotiating with them to, well, killing them! He is hired as a consultant and proceeds to do the necessary ``dirty work'', at the same time encouraging them to be more ruthless.
It's a simple story but director James Abar moved it at a frenetic pace throughout, with very short scenes (bytes?) interspersed with some very well-chosen music including the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimmi Hendrix and Sinatra. In fact the sound design in this play was excellent. At one point in the play, Keith designed the office so that music started whenever someone moves to certain sections of the office, and this was clever and amusing (kudos to Adam Adams). Clarvoe does have a way with words, and actors Thomas Wehrle (Brian), Neil Necastro (Keith) and David Mogentale (Mick) delivered their speeches at a break-neck speed that captured the high-tech nature of their work.
However, in this play, as in so many new ones, none of these characters has a life beyond the set. The audience learned nothing about their pasts and how they came to be where they are. They exist only in the moment and it is difficult to care about them; they have about as much humanity as the machines that they depend on for their livelihood and which give the only meaning to their lives.
The company says that its plays are chosen ``for their fiery vitality and thought-provoking topics,'' and this play was very often fiery; but thought-provoking? Well, yes, if the message was that the meek shall inherit modern technology or that the nerds will get their revenge. It seemed unsure, too, as to whether it was a morality play or a realistic one.
That being said, Wehrle did good work as the insecure company president, ulcer and all. Necastro was amusing as the nerdish idiot savant who actually has the ideas and does the work. He had some good lines, too: ``That guy has dust in his drives,'' ``he's an anusbrain,'' ``My grandchildren?, I can't even get a date.'' As the Mephistophelian hit man -- ``ethics is written by the losers,'' ``the cutting edge is history''--Mogentale delivered a laidback performance that contrasted well with the helter-skelter of the other two.
Andrea Bechert's computer office was appropriate and makes good use of the small space. Lighting was very efficient and the changes in wall color and the computer designs on them were most imaginative (Rob Perry). All in all, an entertaining evening, and congratulations to the 29th Street Rep. in its ninth year of Off-Off-Broadway production.
Copyright 1996 Dudley Stone
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