Curtain Call: Core Values in Square One’s spotlight

I don’t remember the last time I was disappointed in anything that Square One Theatre produced, but Steven Levenson’s Core Values is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Tom Holehan, the artistic director of the Stratford based theatre has almost been infallible with his choice of pithy plays. A top notch director who brings out the best in a script as well as the actors, Holehan consistently hits the bullseyes in his winning shows season after season. This play is different. Even an outstanding cast such as the one on stage at Square One Theater Company couldn’t lift this play from its leadened language base. I kept thinking “Mamet could have done this better.”

The problem is definitely the play. This is the story of a weekend business conference on the cheap. The owner of a travel agency sees his business declining and thinks that if he can get his employees to work as a team things will pick up. Though he has prepared exercises for his crew, the workers are not enthusiastic about participating in them. It’s as if they already know they are working at a dying business which will eventually fold up. Add to this that playwright Levenson is heavy handed with his desperate language. No one really wants to go down with the ship, let alone the audience.

Danielle Sultini and David Victor star in Core Values. — Richard Pheneger photo

David Victor plays the CEO of the company. He wants passion, even though he can’t quite muster that himself. He has personal problems. His wife left him, but has moved on, while he remains stuck in a dying company and a stalled life. Victor is so perfect for this role. He plays it just like a sad sack who occasionally rises to the occasion only to fall deflated again and again.

Lynnette Victoria plays Eliot, the newest employee who needs the job and rallies as much as possible. Victoria’s performance offers humor especially as she sets up rows of water bottles on the conference table. Jim Buffone plays Todd, the techie guy who really isn’t so techie at all. Buffone plays at being cool and hip, though he is neither.

It is Danielle Sultini who plays Nancy the voice of reason that comes closest to bringing the play into a sharp focus. Sultini knows how to create attitude with a capital “A.” She sets the leader straight on the last ditch think tank effort to let him know times have changed and he and his business are not keeping up with the times. She’s a no nonsense gal with plenty of smarts and though Nancy has plenty of problems of her own, she knows the score. This team is playing a losing game. Progress and technology will knock it off the playing field. The audience gets to watch it happen.

This not so funny comedy plays through Nov. 19. Box office: 203-375-8778.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association.She welcomes comments. Contact: