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A CurtainUp Review
Help Wanted: A Personal Search for Meaningful Employment at the Start of the 21st Century
By Rich See
Written and performed by Josh Lefkowitz, Help Wanted went on to become a hit at last year's Capitol Fringe Festival and was featured for a brief run at Woolly Mammoth earlier this season. If you missed Mr. Lefkowitz' funny, touching and refreshingly literate show at those two venues then you owe it to yourself to see him while he is performing in Baltimore.
Having worked with Eric Bogosian, performance artist Holly Hughes and been featured on NPR's All Things Considered, Mr. Lefkowitz creates a performance that is part tribute to his "last great hero" Spalding Gray and part quirky autobiography. Whether he is turning a phrase as if looking at a gem, pausing for an emotional comment to sink in or calmly taking a drink of water while his audience squirms during an uncomfortable segment, he is in control of the stage and creating a wonderful ebb and flow of comedy and drama.
Opening with a comment about Spalding Gray -- a central figure throughout the monologue -- he takes us on his life journey from his last year in college, through his first professional acting gig, up to his much anticipated meeting with his hero, Gray. Along the way, he introduces us to a nutty cast of characters who pepper his life and offer up tidbits of advice and wisdom.
Thus his story weaves 9/11 with his birthday, discusses the merits of being a parking lot attendant, looks at his own internal racial prejudice, examines his sexuality and shares his mantra ("I am Gina Davis! I am Gina Davis!") while never veering from his main target of fascination and homage -- Spalding Gray.
For Washington area audiences Help Wanted is a special treat since it is for the most part set in , DC and includes the sights and sounds of the city we inhabit. Thus when he is describing a gym at Dupont Circle, you're pretty certain you know which one he is speaking about. When he chats about having to move to Northeast DC, you can see the neighborhood he is residing in.
As a monologist, Lefkowitz is more like the sedate Gray or David Sedaris than the physically active Tim Miller who bounds about the performance space. Help Wanted features its performer sitting behind a desk on a small stage with just a simple pitcher of water and a few sheets of copy as props. His facial expressions are convincing and his ability to use distinctly different voices for each of his characters adds texture to the performance. The only defect within the show is that occasionally he allows his voice to go into a high register, which borders on shrill, and becomes a bit piercing to the ear.
Much like Arena Stage's haunting 9 Parts of Desire, Help Wanted shows how powerful a one-person performance can be and how each of our life stories universally add to humanity's mosaic. Mr. Lefkowitz brings us to this place of interconnectedness when he finally meets Spalding Gray. Standing looking at the hero who profoundly impacted his life through a cavalcade of literary works, Josh Lefkowitz discovers that life can be bittersweet -- it's what we do with the two flavors that matters.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide