Scott Hardie | July 22, 2001
Tonight I saw a campus performance of "Working," a musical about people in many different jobs. Ironically, I saw it on the job. (It's my first paid review. Maybe I should write more than "It ruled.")

If you wanted to see a lighthearted afternoon-matinée kind of take on the blue-collar world, with very little insight and some mediocre songs, well, I recommend Working. It's an unfulfilling script based on the book of interviews by the legendary Studs Terkel. When the script leaves in some of the real insights that Terkel learned from the working class, it shines, but too often, it resorts to campy song and dance. What helped immensely was a very talented cast, which boosted my opinion enough to recommend it. I'm going to post my actual review for the newspaper in blue, followed by some comments that I'd like to make but am prevented by the size of the column. I suppose none of this matters too much to people who haven't seen Working, but one purpose of this weblog is for me (and other authors) to spout off about whatever I want, and so I shall. :)Saturday night's performance of "Working" at the Hainline Theater was a fine production of a mediocre play."Working" featured twenty-eight characters from all different career paths, from a factory worker to a corporate executive to a grade-school teacher to a trucker. The characters described their jobs in songs and monologues.As each character spoke, he or she revealed a lot about living with that kind of job. The truths ranged from explicit to implicit, though the latter were much better.The third-grade schoolteacher unfortunately required actress Brianna Nicole Borger to overplay the part, as she communicated the depths of her despair over the changing face of the classroom in modern times. The fired copy boy, played by a scrubby Eric R. Boye, went into detail about his violent revenge fantasies, long after the audience got the point.By contrast, some characters were content to subtly show their feelings behind their jokes and songs. Danielle Wetzel's excellent telephone operator tricked herself into revealing that she likes to listen in on phone calls. Roderick A. Duplissie, who otherwise played for laughs, found pathos in his biggest part as the firefighter who tried to stay positive after a co-worker's death.Not all characters fared so well. The second act opened with a stone mason, who, while well-played by Gene Kozlowsky, was pointless. The greatest insight into him was that he dreams about stones because he works with them so much. Liz Smith's energetic newsboy offered no insight at all, only a quick song about acting silly on the job.But any problems were with the script, which tried too hard to entertain and left out the promise of humanity inherent in the premise. What was a mostly serious book of interviews by Studs Terkel became a light-hearted romp, and it's little surprise that the best parts were those that best reflected the source material.The company was very good, led by Steve Barth's omnipresent iron worker. Gene Kozlowsky, head of the theater department, showed the most range and talent as the gentle stone mason, the bullish corporate executive, and the secretly sorrowful retired man. Wetzel, Duplissie, Shani Alexander in several parts, and Saul M. Nache as the migrant worker, were also stand-outs. Peter Meysenberg had the funniest line in the show, as a paranoid telemarketer who set up a webcam over his shoulder and a display on his monitor to see who was standing behind him. Michael Warfield-Bouie was the funniest player, as an outrageous parking lot attendant who burst into a saucy song-and-dance as soon as his employers were gone.Three performances remain, on July 26th, 27th, and 28th, and I recommend the show. It's short and a little too sweet, even for a summer musical, but a fine cast and some genuine human interest save the day.Now, for some extra thoughts:- The iron working is boring. He's a total white-bread kind of guy, with no insights into one of the most blue of blue-collar jobs. The problem is that he's omnipresent, always sitting or standing off to the side while the other characters talk, and sometimes he breaks into song with them. He have such a dull loser at the helm? Steve Barth is fine, it's just a boring character.- The waitress was interesting. She was annoyingly theatric, fantasizing about ballet movements while moving through the restaurant and talking to her customers like characters in a play. Was this a reflection of the fact that lots of waitresses are out-of-work actresses? This one denied it, but I think the real-life person on whom the character was based was lying. :)- There were two black people in the audience, right next to me, and they kept cheering for the two black actors, one of whom (the parking lot attendant) the lady beside me informed me was her grandson. I don't think this is positive or negative, I just like it.- So the head of the theater department gave the best performance. Big surprise. I misspelled his name when I wrote a factual article about the play last week. I hope giving him (accurate) praise this time makes up for it. :)

Kelly Hardie | July 22, 2001
When are we going to learn?
Acting + Dancing + Singing = Bad

Only when the equation looks like this:

Acting + Dancing + Singing / Steve Martin = Good

It's a universal law.
Now solve for X.


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