After a successful run at SoHo Playhouse last fall Job is back Off Broadway, now at the Connelly. New Job same as the old Job, with Peter Friedman and Sydney Lemmon repeating their acclaimed performances in Max Wolf Friedlich’s tense two-hander. It’s the kind of play you have to review around rather than actually review, given numerous surprises tucked into its brief running time. But it’s worth grappling with, and is one of the more compelling shows of the season.

It begins with a loaded situation–literally loaded, with Jane (Sydney Lemmon) wielding a gun that’s dropped out of her purse at Lloyd (Peter Friedman). It’s not quite clear how deliberate this is; Jane, tightly wound and frazzled, sort of apologizes for what is for him a hostage situation, and for her another faux pas brought on by her eternal discomfort. Everything settles down, but more into stalemate than anything else. Gradually we learn that Lloyd is a therapist, tasked by Jane’s employer to see if she’s fit to return to work after a breakdown that went viral on social media.

What kind of work? Ah, that would be telling. (Other critics have but not knowing much about it myself I appreciated going into the show cold.) Suffice it to say this isn’t a confrontational play about sexism, like David Mamet’s Oleanna, or a sci-fi shocker on the order of the workplace-centered streaming show Severance. The moat-like set keeps you guessing. It’s a therapist’s office, designed to be as neutral as possible. But strange clicks and piercing bursts of light occasionally disturb the peace, as Jane and Lloyd continually recalibrate their thrown-together relationship after that wild beginning. There is a nightmare scene, with a masked intruder invading the space–but nothing is quite so scary as Jane’s unraveling the tale that brought her to this juncture in the first place, or why she wants to resume her duties. Get ready to cringe and gasp, and prepare to leave Job shaken.

First-time playwright Friedlich, a man on a mission, isn’t afraid to make the show irritating, or even a little dull, as he strings us along through his heart of darkness. (The show is set in January 2020, adding to the creeping unease of entering a meltdown.) He empathizes with Jane, his fellow millenial, as she tries to make sense of her shattered life, but is also sympathetic to Lloyd’s understandable exasperation with her behavior, which has a performative edge to it. (The generation gap between Lloyd, an old school liberal who couches his emotions in common sense typical of his profession and age, and Jane, who zealousy rejects those tenets while trying to keep it together so she can single-mindedly get back to work, is a chasm.)  A “two-hander” like this is nothing without two strong hands, and this production has them in all-round utility player Friedman (familiar from Succession as the toadying Frank, here demonstrating his firm grasp on the “normal” and quotidian under strained circumstances) and Lemmon–granddaughter of Jack, but with few traces of her lineage, in a restless, discomfiting, agonizing turn.

Mention must also be made of director Michael Herwitz and the entire design team (Scott Penner, scenic; Mextly Couzin, lighting; Michelle J. Li, costumes; Jesse Char and Maxwell Neely Cohen, sound; Julian Alicea (aka “The Brain-Wave”) and Josh Aronson, creative direction and graphic design; Ian Tarbert, digital consultant), all of whom methodically peel back the layers of the piece. Job is a gig worth taking for 80 suspenseful minutes.

About the Author

Bob Cashill

An Editorial Board Member of Cineaste magazine, Bob is also a member of the Drama Desk theatrical critics society in New York. See what he's watching on Letterboxd and read more from him at New York Theater News.

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