Cheyenne Casebier (from left), Keiko Green and Linda Gehringer, in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of “The Comparables.” (2015). Photo by Alabastro Photography
Cheyenne Casebier (from left), Keiko Green and Linda Gehringer, in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of “The Comparables.” (2015). Photo by Alabastro Photography
I’m usually excited about a world premiere of a play. I hold my breath as the curtain goes up, daring to hope I can celebrate it.

Laura Schellhardt’s play “The Comparables,” commissioned by Seattle Repertory Theatre (155 Mercer St.), promises a new take on an old issue.

I really wanted to celebrate this play; unfortunately, I could not.

I sat there thinking, “Just be patient; it will get better.” But anticipation turned into ennui. It was supposed to be a dark-comedy satire, but I barely cracked a smile.

The production elements are not the problem. Braden Abraham is an excellent director, the actresses are talented and the set, costumes and lighting are satisfactory. The problem with this play is the play itself: The script fails them all. Its tired satire is riddled with clichés and boring sound bites.

“The Comparables” deals with the power and relationships of women in the workplace and their determination to compete — even excel — in a corporate, male-dominated workplace, which wouldn’t be so bad if the playwright had anything fresh to say.

The play unfolds over 85 minutes — no intermission — in a boutique real estate office in New York City. Carey Wong’s set is sleek steel and glass, modern and cool, as in high-end sterile. And a pointy chandelier hovers above like a snowflake on acid.

Meet Bette, Iris and Monica: three women, three stereotypes, played by three actresses who tried their best to make the script meaningful.

Costume designer Frances Kenny dresses Bette for success in ecru ensembles of business couture, squeezes Iris into tight black leather and humbles Monica in bland, blah-butt gray.

Real estate maven Bette (Linda Gehringer) is a self-made, ball-busting virago who would trample her nearest and dearest to succeed. Of course, as the boss, she claims the corner office with the windows. Bully Bette rants, raves and regales her subordinates with her realty war stories. At one point, she steps center stage to blather and roar about herself, spewing martial arts mumbo jumbo about aikido. It’s like a “Saturday Night Live” skit of a really bad menopause.

Bette is about to launch her own reality show, and she has yet to name her successor. She has all but promised it to Monica — till hotshot Iris arrives on the scene.

The new hire, Iris (Keiko Green), is pushy galore. She’s willing to jump-start her career by prancing around in dominatrix attire and bragging about playing golf with the “boys.” She’s hoping to score a hole in one.

Monica (Cheyenne Casebier), a hard-working, honest, ethical pushover, has been patiently accepting her yearly raise and cake for 10 years, hoping and waiting to be promoted. Rather than keeping a diary, she confides her thoughts to her tape recorder.

As Monica, Casebier, a fine actress, is more appealing and convincing than her one-dimensional sisters. At Iris’ manipulative suggestion, Monica tries to morph into a stiletto-heeled siren and save a six-figure deal. When she bursts out of her safe, little cocoon, she goes too far. Instead of the vibrant butterfly she hoped to be, she’s more like a moth that singes its wings on a hot bulb.

“The Comparables” might have felt fresh in the early 1970s. But decade after decade, we’ve heard the same thing: Yes, women still face discrimination. Yes, women often abuse positions of power and manipulate each other. Yes, in a competitive situation, women can be as cutthroat and ruthless as men. But Schellhardt does not offer a modern perspective or solution. I hoped her play would open our minds to some meaningful revelation. So I waited and waited…and waited.

And just when I thought the show might be over, there was another scene.

I did perk up near the end, thanks to the knock-down, hair-pulling, screaming catfight between Monica and Iris. But even that couldn’t redeem the mediocrity of the evening.

If there are Broadway aspirations — and I’m sure there are — this play definitely needs a makeover. As is, “The Comparables” might well drive feminist Gloria Steinem back into her Playboy bunny ears and cottontail.

Seattle Repertory Theatre (155 Mercer St.) presents “The Comparables” through March 29. For ticket and show information, visit or call (206) 443-2222.