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The Oracle

After a zany CEO brings in a second seer, cutthroat corporate intrigue and hilarity ensue in this well-played smart business world satire.

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Micky (Jasmine Dorothy Haefner) and Bart (Hassan Hope) contemplate their mysterious new coworker, Aisling (Alyssa Poon) in T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan’s “The Oracle” at Theater for a New City (Photo credit: Marjorie Phillips Elliott)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

No, having two CEOs would be like having two suns in the same sky. Because the sun is the center of the universe, right? Whereas two Oracles is more like…having two hands. I think Aisling will be very handy.

So declares the zany best-selling author, celebrated motivational speaker and CEO of a cryptic 21st century corporation whose motto is, “Do it yesterday!” in co-authors T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan’s amusing business world satire, The Oracle. The familiar cutthroat terrain of Executive Suite, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Network and 30 Rock is enjoyably trod here again, with a dartboard cleverly proving to be instrumental.

The company’s white male Chief Knowledge Officer also known as the Oracle (Patrick Smith), gives a morning presentation where he proclaims three “daily divinations” or “reveals” that the staff then tackle. When the CEO brings in a hotshot Harvard graduate Asian American woman (Alyssa Poon) to be a second Oracle, corporate intrigue ensues.

Leo Sweeney (Patrick Smith), The Oracle at the corporation, attempts to present the future to a somewhat skeptical CEO, Fred Spee (Ed Altman) in T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan’s “The Oracle” at Theater for a New City (Photo credit: Marjorie Phillips Elliott)

Mr. Elliott and Mr. Queenan’s racially diverse, straight and gay five characters are well-delineated; their breezy often pop culture-referenced dialogue is loaded with one-liners that land and they’ve crafted a compelling plot. Their adept writing marks The Oracle as a sound comedy.

The gray-haired, suited up, animated Ed Altman energizes the show with his winning wacky portrayal of the CEO, channeling J.B. Biggley, Ted Baxter and Howard Beale. Jasmine Dorothy Haefner and Hassan Hope as well as the aforementioned Alyssa Poon and Patrick Smith all offer vivid characterizations as the other archetypical office figures.

This premiere five-performance Off-Off-Broadway showcase run of The Oracle is best viewed as a tryout, and the production’s presentational flaws are cited with that belief. Co-author Elliott also directed; while he’s assembled, well-positioned and guided the industrious cast to lively performances, his physical staging is variable. The play is structured as 34 brief scenes over two acts. Instead of rapid transitions, there’s a pause between each scene while recorded music plays as the actors get in place. This intrusive strategy slackens the pacing and adds to the running time.

Leo Sweeney (Patrick Smith) as “The Oracle” at the corporation considers his options in T.J. Elliott and Joe Queenan’s The Oracle at Theater for a New City (Photo credit: Marjorie Phillips Elliott)

Working from Theater for the New City’s props department, scenic designer Kathleen Ritter has configured appropriate furnishings to resemble a break room and the Oracle’s office at opposite sides of the stage. In the center is a platform accessible on either side by an attached two steps. This is where presentations are made, and several scenes are set. These weathered wooden components continually creak as the actors walk around, distracting from the mirth. Perhaps carpeting would remedy this.

Mikelle Kelly’s lighting design prodigiously contends with switching to the numerous scenes and artfully illuminating each one. Luke Lutz’s cool projection design wittily displays PowerPoint demonstrations and various building locations, and his crisp sound design represents music and effects.

This credible incarnation of The Oracle proves it to be smart comic entertainment.

The Oracle (May 18-22, 2022)

Knowledge Workings Theater

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-oracle-a-new-comedy-by-tj-elliott-joe-queenan-tickets-310167026927

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (803 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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