Downsize, Walkabout Theater Company. John G. Connolly–who single-handedly sold the Steppenwolf Arts Exchange’s production of Fahrenheit 451–apparently excels at playing pricks too. In Downsize, his hyperkinetic turn as Archie–a sleazy Ricky Roma type trying to claw his way out of a sinking corporate ship–ought to make directors think twice before giving him any future nice-guy roles. The rest of director Stephan Mazurek’s ensemble is just as magnificent: Hans Fleischmann, Jerry Miller, and Brad Walker sweat bullets and exchange frosty stares as three nervous stuffed shirts, while the always enjoyable Harry Eddleman delivers droll commentary from behind the locked door of a toilet stall.
Chris Welzenbach’s 25-minute play is a remarkably toothsome actors’ piece that depicts the Machiavellian intrigues of a group of midlevel executives facing mass layoffs. Walkabout Theater Company heightens the pressure-cooker atmosphere with site-specific productions tailored to men’s rooms. On opening weekend, Mazurek’s economical staging in the cramped Steppenwolf Garage bathroom was a revelation: audience members were close enough to the actors to see the creases in their furrowed brows. Mazurek and his cast plan to adapt the show to various rest rooms throughout the summer in what the company is affectionately calling “the bathroom tour.” The venues are somewhat uncertain, but Welzenbach’s lean, rapacious script and Walkabout’s guerrilla approach should ensure that Downsize has a longer life span than most of its characters’ jobs.