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Theater Review: 'Close Up Space' -- 2 stars

Rosie Perez and David Hyde Pierce in “Close

Rosie Perez and David Hyde Pierce in “Close Up Space.” (Joan Marcus) Credit: Rosie Perez and David Hyde Pierce in “Close Up Space.” (Joan Marcus)

Close Up Space
2 stars

Remember when David Hyde Pierce played the fussy, obsessive, intellectual Niles Crane on "Frasier"? Just in case you missed it - or you miss his portrayal of that role - Pierce just happens to be giving a virtually identical performance playing another fussy, obsessive, intellectual character in Molly Smith Metzler's awkward 80-minute play, "Close Up Space."

Set in the fancy downtown office space of a small publishing company, the play begins with Paul (Pierce) laying out the ground rules to Bailey (Jessica DiGiovanni), a scared and confused college intern from Vassar, and reviewing a letter he just received informing him that his angry teenage daughter Harper (Colby Minifie) has been kicked out of her boarding school for her erratic behavior.

Paul then proceeds to deal with Harper, who will only speak in Russian; his offbeat office manager Steve (Michael Chernus), who has been secretly sleeping in the office at night in a tent; and Vanessa (Rosie Perez), his demanding, very valuable client, who just dropped off the manuscript of her new novel.

At first, and for the most part, "Close Up Space" comes across as an irritating sitcom comedy with little substance.

It only starts to get interesting when it touches upon the recent suicide of Paul's wife, which explains the difficult relationship between him and Harper.

Director Leigh Silverman makes matters worse by encouraging her cast to broadly overplay their characters. Although Perez and Chernus can occasionally be funny, their antics throw the uneven play even more off-balance.

The production at least ends with the oddly touching image of a deeply saddened Paul crawling into Steve's tent, which is the only item left in his office after it's completely robbed.

If you go: "Close Up Space" plays through Feb. 5 at City Center. 131 W. 55th St., 212-581-1212,

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