„Big Boys“ – the new play at the English Theatre of Hamburg

 By  Uta Buhr


This paper is sheer bullshit!

Did you ever hear of Rich Orloff? If not, it is high time to learn a good many things about this gifted playwright  who likes to compose over-the-top comic fables as to what men value and desire. In fact, “Big Boys”, a screwball comedy which premiered in 1997 in the United States, became very quickly a great success nationwide. The subject of the play is as old as mankind itself: greed and man’s desire to dominate over other people. The relationship between a self-satisfied, bully, amoral and – of course – very successful boss and his new insecure, highly moral and unhappy assistant-to-be is dealt with in detail in this hilarious two-character comedy.

Described as “Big Business meets the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business”, the play  focuses on what is worst in America’s corporate culture and stretches it to its most absurd and, at times, surreal. “Although set in an office, business is not the subject of ‘Big Boys’ as much as the metaphor I’ve used to explore deeper questions”, writes the author of the play  and continues:  “What are the values men cherish, in both theory and practice? What are the limitations of ‘nice”, and what can the ‘nice’ learn from the ‘ruthless’? What choices do we have that we often choose to ignore or deny? ‘Big Boys’ is simultaneously an opportunity to investigate these questions dramatically and a vehicle for two bravura comic actors to show off their stuff in a way naturalistic plays won’t allow.”

Can a nice fellow like Norman suceed in business?

It goes without saying that director Clifford Dean chose two outstanding actors for this “vaudeville and sketch comedy.” Alan Booty is the Big Boss Victor Burlington who takes great pleasure in bullying and humiliating his “nerd” – young and idealistic Norman Waterbury, played by James Groom. Insults, four-letter-words as well as aggressive physical attacks are essential ingredients of this non-stop fury of funny. An American critic is hitting it on the head by stating that our culture struggles to find the sweet spot between honourable behaviour and success in business. The question is whether a nice fellow like Norman can succeed in business by remaining true to his high moral standards. Or will he be forced to adopt Victor’s ruthless attitude in order to become a CEO in America’s corporate elite? At the end of the play we learn that Norman, the new “big shot” after Victor’s death, is willing to stick to his highly cherished values. He recognises that in a long run recklessness does not pay in business, and thus decides to run the company with more respect for his co-workers and for the environment. Let us hope for the best. Did not Dante teach us in his “Divine Comedy” that “the road to hell was paved with good intentions…”

Although “Big Boys, this sharp and punchy comedy, proved so far one of the funniest and most successful comedies ever performed on American stages, Rich Orloff, the author of this play is one of the “most popular unknown playwrights” in the United States of America. A critic of the famous New York Times called his plays “wildly imaginative”, and the Los Angeles Times wrote that the author had created a “theatre with a brain and with a heart.” Orloff’s work for the stage includes full-length plays such as “Advanced Chemistry” and “Chatting with the Tea Party.”

Final performance of “Big Boys” on June 29, 2013. Tickets under phone number

040 – 227 70 89, online booking under www.englishtheatre.de

At the end of the theatre holiday, the readers of our DAP Homepage will be informed about the next premiere in early autumn as soon as we know the title of the new play.