“The Comparables” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

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Keiko Green, Cheyenne Casebier and Linda Gehringer. Photo: Alabastro Photography.

What a great set! Carey Wong has outdone himself with his sleek, ultramodern, stainless steel and glass real estate office high over the metropolis. I start this review with reference to that spectacular set because it is the best thing about this production.

Oh it’s a comedy all right, kind of like a second rate TV sitcom, sort of the feminine counterpart of Mamet’s “Glengary Gleen Ross.” Its humor centers on women at or striving to reach the top. The actors who play these roles represent their characters splendidly. It’s just that all three of the women they play are either detestable or unbelievable. They are, however, gorgeous, but surely playwright Laura Schellhardt isn’t saying that’s what you need to get ahead in a man’s world.

Linda Gehringer as Bette, the head of the agency, takes imperiousness, self-importance, and manipulation to new levels of unpleasantness. She swirls onto the stage, giving orders, treating her subordinate, Monica, as if she were an indentured servant. Bette, in Gehringer’s hands epitomizes the self-serving, always striving, tough, raging, user who creates enormous success for herself.

Cheyenne Casabier as Monica, the loyal underling, suffers through insults, near servitude stature, and long hours, and has done so for many years because she expects that such subservience will pay off and she’ll gain the top spot. She plays a realistic brown mouse until much younger Iris shows up causing Monica to undergo a dramatic personality change. And the denouement for the new Monica, meant to be the humor highpoint of the play, struck me as unbelievable and cartoonish.

Iris is the antithesis of Monica. She’s a ballsey broad who wants it all, and wants it now. She too is a manipulator and a schemer. You quickly learn not to mess with Iris as played with style and assurance by Keiko Green. I did love the subtle reminder of the age difference between Monica and Iris. Both had to take notes at one point. Monica with paper and pencil. Iris typed on her smart phone.

If this play is meant to describe the manner in which women compete in the workplace, it’s far off the mark. Numerous studies have shown female management style is, for the most part, quite different from the male style. And those of us who have worked for high-powered, high level females can attest to that. Sure there are many exceptions, and those exceptions make good fodder for TV sitcoms. If that’s the sort of entertainment you like, this is a play for you.

Through March 29, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center, 155 Mercer St., Seattle (206-443-2222 or www. seattlerep.org).

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