New York debut for ‘Professional Skepticism.’

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The audit team struggles to keep to the task while one member recreates a drunken dance from the night before.
The audit team struggles to keep to the task while one member recreates a drunken dance from the night before. L: Matthew J. Nichols, Britney Burgess (legs), Steve French. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

From June 28 to July 15, Zootopia Theatre Company will present the New York premiere of “Professional Skepticism,” a dark comedy by James Rasheed, which has had very successful productions in Boston and South Carolina. The play centers on four auditors at a Big Five CPA firm and their daily struggle to survive while swimming with sharks. An audit scandal threatens to change these characters into headline-making personalities. Rasheed’s tale of office intrigue is surprisingly funny, intense, and timely.

Written before scandals enveloped Enron, Worldcom and Arthur Anderson, the play has assumed new stature in light of these events. Boston critics have applauded the play’s sharp, funny dialogue and how it presents quantitative issues with such clarity that even mathematically-challenged audience members can feel as smart as the sharpest pinstripe CPA.

The Boston Globe wrote, “If you thought accountants lived lives as gray as their double-entry numbers, then James Rasheed’s hilarious new play ‘Professional Skepticism’ ought to correct your (understandable) miscalculation…. The playwright speaks with rare authority and insight as well as mathematically precise shafts of wit…. Rasheed sets forth the basic issues of a corporate audit with such clarity and succinctness that even the mathematically challenged can understand them. His dialogue is sharp and funny and the dramatic situation he depicts has a universality that speaks to any viewer.”

The play is being presented here by Zootopia Theatre Company as its inaugural production.

“Professional Skepticism” was Brandeis University’s Herbert and Beigel New Play Premiere and won the 2000-2001 Harold and Mimi Steinberg Prize for Best Original Play. It was published in “New Playwrights: The Best Plays Of 2002” (Smith and Krause).

Before earning a Master’s degree in playwriting from Brandeis University in 1999, author James Rasheed established a successful career in accounting, first as an auditor for a Big Eight accounting firm and then as a controller of a medical corporation. His “August Flight,” a symbolic, metaphoric dream play, received a full production at Clemson University and was its entry in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. His last play, “Mama Mamie’s Departure,” is a dark Southern comedy about the infighting among three elderly Southern sisters during their 100-year old mother’s death. “Professional Skepticism” and “Mama Mamie’s Departure” have had staged readings at Urban Stages in NYC. “Professional Skepticism” also had a staged reading at ART in Cambridge, MA.

Steve French, Britney Burgess. Choked: Matthew J. Nichols.
The play centers on cutthroat tactics among auditors at a Big Five CPA firm and their daily struggle to survive while swimming with sharks. Top: Steve French, Britney Burgess. Choked: Matthew J. Nichols. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Recently named a “talent to watch” by NYtheatre.com, director Kareem Fahmy hails from Sherbrooke, Quebec and has directed nearly twenty productions in the U.S. and Canada. His New York directing credits include the world premiere of “A First Class Man” at the 45th St. Theatre, “The Collected Works of Billy the Kid,” “Lion in the Streets,” “Curse of the Starving Class,” “The Way to Begin,” “On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco” and “Drums in the Night.” Fahmy is a graduate of Columbia University ‘s MFA Directing program, where he studied under Anne Bogart.

The cast includes Britney Burgess, Steve French and Matthew J. Nichols. Production stage manager is Nilou Safinya. Set design is by Andrew Lu, lighting design is by Scott Bolman, and costume design is by Anne K. Wood.

Performances are June 28 to July 15, 2007 at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm; Saturday matinees July 7 and 14 at 2:00 pm. Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. The box office number is 212-868-4444 and online ticketing is available at www.smarttix.com

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.