RR LogoTheater Review Bob's Holiday Office Party headline

Reviewed by Ethan Silver

Theater Review Bob's Office Party Photo by Michelle PedersenAre you in the market for new insurance?  Perfect!  This is the ideal time to see Bob Finhead at Finhead’s E-Z Insurance Agency.  He insures almost everything, including cars, boats and livestock and he even throws a Christmas party for his clients.  You see, in the small town of Neuterburg, Iowa, everyone knows each other like the back of their hands, everyone is insured by Finhead insurance, and they all know about Bob’s Holiday Office Party.  The party began in 1995 as an improv / sketch show and it returns every year to a surprise location bringing the Midwest spirit to Hollywood.  But Bob is getting tired of small town life and he wants to go to school to fulfill his dream of being a big time inventor. When an old acquaintance and entrepreneur, Elwin Beewee comes around with an offer to buy the company, Bob must decide whether to pursue his dream or stay in Neuterburg with his roots.  But for now, bring on the party!

The production takes place in the insurance company office and opens with Bob Finhead, played by co-writer Rob Elk.  Bob is definitely the straight man among a town of whack jobs which becomes more and more evident, as each and every character appears, beginning with the fast-talking Sheriff Joe Walker, expertly played by co-writer Joe Keys.  All the characters are enjoyable, however, this is the best written of the bunch and superbly executed with perfect comedic timing.  Joe however, is not the only quick-witted character in this over-the-top menagerie.  Enter La Voris and La Donna Johnson (Linda Miller, Judy Heneghan), two peas-in-a-pod sisters who play off each other’s conservative banter, reminiscent of the funniest sketch comedy skit.  With political digs and Midwestern clichés galore, the Johnson sisters are just as much fun sober, as they are when off-their-rocker-drunk.  Wait, is that real beer?

As the characters become more and more familiar with their alcohol, the action gets hilariously chaotic culminating in an all out crazy circus onstage with every character engaging in some sort of comical debauchery so unexpected, one cannot help but laugh out loud.  I have seen a lot of theater but nothing quite like this.  Get ready for a wild time complete with slapstick, marital drama, raunch and characters galore including a tipsy version of Santa himself (Tom Carey).

Director, Matt Roth utilizes the talent of an incredible ten person cast, many recognizable from theater, television and film.  John Bader plays the antagonist, Elwin Bewee the formerly tortured high school stutterer returning with a proposition for Bob.  Other party guests include Marty (Mark Fite) the car-accident prone stoner and extra-terrestrial connoisseur, Margie (Andrea Hutchman), the not-so-faithful wife of the town mayor, Roy (David Bauman) and Brandy, (Johanna McKay) the classy woman about town, that is, if “classy” were to mean crude and easily…ahem, “had.”

The actors have the added benefit of playing on a great stage at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood, CA with Gary Guidinger providing festive lighting and a welcoming set design perfect for the camp and frivolity of the show.  With so much going on in the performance, Stage Manager Jennifer Bendik, no doubt, has her hands full.  All in all, a talented cast and crew work together to bring Bob’s Holiday Office Party back for its 15th season in a performance with lots of wiggle room for improvisation.

With such a raucous, edgy and fun show, it is no wonder why its loyal group of fans follow it to its chosen location each year.   The over the top nature of this production is such fun to watch as the down home, conservative characters drink themselves into an organized chaos, perfect for a night out in Bob’s Holiday Office Party.  See it before they run out of booze!

Bring your friends but keep the children at home for this party.  Bob’s Holiday Office Party plays at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood, CA Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm until December 2nd.