NUTS & BOLTS, Shockoe Slip Theatre, at National Pastime Theater. True hilarity and poignancy are fleeting in Shockoe Slip Theatre’s debut performance, the Chicago premiere of John DeVore’s collection of scenes about oddball office workers and situations. But when director Matthew Stevens abandons his static pacing and unoriginal blocking, the troupe shows promise. The show’s highlight is an absurd scene between two employees competing at sharpening pencils. Tom Bateman and Rich Helland perform this segment with finesse, and Stevens takes risks rewarded with the evening’s only sustained bout of laughter.

There’s potential in Helland’s turn as the embezzler trying to keep his job (“You call it embezzlement, I call it initiative”) by pushing an idea for glow-in-the-dark cheese; Kevin Rich’s military-style sales instructor, whose motto is “sell or die”; and Kelsey Wilson’s human resources director, who hires, fires, and rehires a confused job applicant all in a whirlwind minute. But even these characterizations need work. The company has apparently taken the show’s title too much to heart, providing a nuts-and-bolts performance and nothing more. –Jenn Goddu