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‘Being the Boss and Other Short Plays’ Review: The Mid-Semester Belly Laugh We All Needed

The cast of "Being the Boss"
The cast of "Being the Boss" By Courtesy of Arwen Zhang
By Claire C. Swadling, Contributing Writer

Sometimes, there is no greater pleasure than a goofy anthology of comedic writing. Luckily, “Being the Boss, and Other Short Plays” written and directed by Turandot Shayegan ’25, provided just that. Created as an extension of pandemic shenanigans, the set of three comedic, stand-alone, one-act plays ran from March 30 to April 1 at the Adams Pool Theater. While many creatives struggle to translate their quarantine fever dreams into reality, Shayegan’s production embraces the absurdity fostered by quarantine, allowing its very incoherence to be the throughline connecting one play to the next.

A chair, a table, and a lounge chair sat center stage as guests filled in with bubbly commotion. However, it was not until a dimming of the lights and a trumpet blare that the first act, “Troubles in Therapy,” began. In this jaunty take on the traditional headache of couples therapy, Olivia F. Data ’26 portrayed Sally Clark, an eccentric 61-year-old woman who is resolved to swindle her husband Jim Clark (Austin D. Kaufman ’25) to become the queen of Narnia — an opportunity she discovered thanks to her spam folder. Doc Garner, an exhausted therapist played by Kian Attari ’23, wants nothing but to get the two stooges out of his office. The two following plays stay consistent with Shayegan’s slapstick pattern; in “Prompting a Play,” Jack T. Flynn ’26 portrayed an encouraging director who installs a walkie-talkie system to prevent his actors from messing up their lines, but the prompter (Attari) mixes up the roles of police officer and suspect. Finally, the production ends with “Being the Boss,” a story of how a seemingly ludicrous businesswoman Celeste Rushmore (Data) gets her way despite the anxiety of her assistant John Winterburn (Flynn). Against his wishes, she emerges victorious from a negotiation with Louisa Durgle (Joy R. Ho ’26) equipped with nothing but long consonant sounds, alliterative puns, and copious fish analogies.

Throughout “Being the Boss, and Other Short Plays,” Shayegan’s absurdist writing lives in the comfortable intersection of weird and wacky. Her dialogue is colorful, her characters are loveable, and her analogies are downright unforgettable. While there is much to be enjoyed in this bite-sized production, the comedic resolutions of particular scenarios are often predictable — the couples therapy episode produces the anticipated bickering and the officer-criminal role reversal was not entirely unexpected. Yet, there is nonetheless a lively charm that accompanies the viewing experience; Shayegan’s writing and directing possess a bright quality that lets a reluctant whimsy in even as we’re guffawing loudly at the onstage clamor.

Perhaps no one better embodied the dichotomy between the strange and the silly than Data; her portrayals of wonky soon-to-be divorcée and eccentric diva were positively enrapturing. From her animated voice work to over-the-top physical comedy, Data’s full acting arsenal was on display. She owned each of her characters, turning the lunatic fantasies of each into her own. Similarly, Kaufman fully embraced his roles, deftly adapting his voice work between roles. Ho matched his ferocity with equal skill; the chemistry of their physical comedy on-stage during “Prompting a Play” was a recipe for laughter.

Flynn masterfully showed his range within his less prominent roles, highlighting his penchant for comedic timing. At once earnest and optimistic in “Prompting a Play,” he became effortlessly exasperated in “Being the Boss.” Meanwhile, Attari’s performance perfectly complemented the onstage bickering in the first two acts, adding fuel to the mounting ridiculousness onstage. Both actors expertly stoked the fire ignited by other characters.

The choice to hold the production in the Adams Pool Theatre was remarkably fitting; the small stage was the right size to be fully commanded by the actors without seeming crowded, and the flanking mirrors prevented the performance from feeling claustrophobic. The tech crew, Haley M. Stark ’25, David C. Brown ’25, and Maranatha Paul ’26 chose lighting that bordered on the conservative, favoring minimal illumination so the audience’s eyes could roam between characters instead of fixating on only one. Music composed by Emil R. Massad ’25 found its bravado in its simplicity and en pointe comedic timing; melodic choices complemented the onstage banter appropriately without overpowering the actors.

Overall, “Being the Boss, and Other Short Plays” was a pleasant watch that found its joy in the wacky. Shayegan managed to accomplish a feat few can boast: She brought her quarantine musings into real life — and real laughs.

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