Cleaning someone else’s mess is as crummy a job as they come, and Richard Dresser nails that much in “Augusta,” an uneven dramedy about a pair of women who work for a housecleaning service. Molly is middle-aged, weary and glad for the paycheck; Claire is young and angry, and glad for the paycheck. Their days are filled with the petty grievances that comprise work life, made incrementally worse by a new boss, Jimmy, who is a one-man homage to douchebaggery. All three characters are driven by desperation—both the emotional and financial kind—which explains much of their backstabbing, or perceived backstabbing. Jimmy makes vague promises to Claire about getting ahead, and she is naïve and self-deceptive enough to believe his interest is strictly professional. It’s not that this sort of thing doesn’t happen. It does. But Claire, as played by Gwendolyn Whiteside, isn’t quite right; she’s supposed to be a blundering bull in a china shop—toughened, yet entirely bereft of street smarts —but it’s hard to believe a woman this attractive (and Whiteside is very pretty) is really that dumb about the motives of men. As Molly, Kate Buddeke can do no wrong—she is vulnerable and knowing at once, and it is her performance that keeps you hooked in. Otherwise, director Nora Dunn (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) can’t seem to get this thing moving fast enough. Ninety minutes never felt so long. (Nina Metz)
At American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron, (773)929-1031. This production is now closed.