Happy hour is usually decompression time from the 9-to-5 grind, but under director Michael Arabian, the Century City Club dance floor becomes a mock shrine to the rat race in John O'Keefe's one-man show "The Promotion."
Todd Mandel turns in a funny, delicious performance as a pathetic, blue Beemer-owning, brown-nosing suit, Ted. While trying to squirm his way to the top of the heap and obsessing in his mind over minor embarrassments (he forgot his car keys while walking to the garage with his boss, Darrell), he has a "Twilight Zone" moment.
In his medium gray suit, white shirt and neatly conservative though stylish maroon tie, Mandel blends in easily with the crowd seated at small tables around the dance floor. There were some opening-night glitches, and at times, O'Keefe's script seems out of place in Century City (most notably the mention of snow), casting doubt on Arabian's choice of location. But when Ted slowly sinks into a different reality, this club--surrounded by impersonal towers of bureaucracy--becomes darkly perfect.
A sinister Darrell reappears (also played by Mandel), a "rain of psychotic intensity" falls and Ted's high-profile girlfriend isn't home for his obligatory 7 p.m. call. Far worse, something happens to his BMW.
Don Preston's music, along with Bob Blackburn's sound design and Frank McKown's atmospheric lighting, greatly supplement O'Keefe's slender script and create the personal little hell that man-on-the-rise Ted finds himself in.
"The Promotion," Century City Club, 10131 Constellation Blvd., Century City. Fridays, 6 p.m. Ends March 31. $10, including two drinks and appetizer. (323) 960-7756. Running time: 1 hour.