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What We're Up Against You've come a long way, baby (that would be playwright Theresa Rebeck), especially if you want to prove that you, too, can write like David Mamet, scouring the wallpaper off the Alley Theatre's Neuhaus Stage with profanity while exposing gender inequities in the workplace. Rebeck's comedy is all that, but not much more. Adapted from her intense but short two-character one-acter (1992), which was a sharp dissection of bully-boy tactics in the work environment, Rebeck's fleshed-out play has the heady whiff of ancient feminist history. It's set "in the present" but feels like 20 years ago, if not longer, as if the gender politics are entrenched in the era of Betty Friedan. But Rebeck's skill lies in the accuracy of the scalpel as she dissects with sting and gusto the workplace, whether one is female or not. Forget the gender gap, it's how we interact — intimidate, cow, bully, schmooze and brownnose — that's so comically depicted. We laugh at the revealing sad truth in this. Hired as a "protégée" of the firm's CEO, prickly Eliza (Julia Motyka) enters this testosterone-filled den of architects and immediately butts heads with Stu (David Andrew Macdonald), the firm's manager, who's stuck in prehistoric times with his palpable condescension. Eliza's put into a broom closet of an office and not given any projects to work on. She's terribly gifted and terribly obnoxious, knowing full well she's "eight times as talented" as any of the office "boneheads" — pro Ben (David Rainey), clueless Weber (Chris Hutchison) and female token Janice (Nancy Lemenager). The intricacies of office politics get rich comic treatment as loyalties shift within scenes. The cast is well-nigh perfect, doing the best that can be done with these sketchy "types," and director Scott Schwartz keeps everything and everyone moving, which is a good thing since Rebeck stalls too often with her off-balance mix of girl-power, glass ceiling and sitcom office comedy. Through June 10. 615 Texas, 713-228-8421. — DLG

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