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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The 100-minute evening has 11 actors, each performing a piece written and directed by a different credited artist (in one case, a playwright is directing and acting in her own work). Bobby Moresco is the evening's credited producer, creator and director, although given the sheer number of contributors and the blending of stories, it's impossible to pick out any single person's creative vision.
Insightfully written and largely well-acted, Working 2020 contains minimal staging and feels a bit like a workshop. Some stories are more personal than others, and nothing is too thorny. Relatability feels key. Someone up there on stage is us. In addition to the players listed above, these trades include a mother who opens her monologue with "If you don't think that's work, go fuck yourself." Point taken.
The actress, Elizabeth Grullon, uses her profession as a jumping off point to examine a mother coming to terms with the unique vision of her autistic son. Grullon is credible and clearly deeply invested in her character's struggle, but she's up against some writing that feels like it's been lifted from the "blogs written by autistic people" that her character references.
Somewhat inexplicably, "The Mother" is juxtaposed with "The Orderly," which depicts a man who cleans up blood and feces in hospitals ("This is the best job. Forty -two years of fun.") dealing with the death of his wife. Written and directed by Ryan Surratt, it's the evening's most affecting piece and a pitch perfect Tom Bower acts the daylights out of it. Other than breaking up fairly lengthy monologues, the back and forth between "The Mother" and "The Orderly" in the first act, and "The Actor" and "The Waitress" in the second creates more distraction than continuity.
The other tales of 2020 are a grab bag of yarns from upper- middle-class men of privilege to civil servants to the working stiffs who assemble sandwiches or punch clocks at construction sites. The players invariably introduce themselves with their title: "I'm an actor." "I'm a hustler," "I'm a marriage counselor."
In certain cases, the story recounts how the title has been earned. Tonya Cornelisse's ambitious writer gets a porn script produced and is paid not with money, but with an expensive blown glass butt plug." But she is paid for her work and that makes her a professional. "I stand with those who write plays, movies, poems, novels and movies," Cornelisse triumphantly proclaims' "I'm not invisible. Not anymore."
Michael Pare does a nice turn as a disgraced fireman who runs from rather than toward danger. Anne DeSalvo, directing herself in her own monologue, is quietly heroic as a Bensonhurst hairdresser who eyes a move to Manhattan.
By the time we get to "The Welder," performed and written by Joseph Lyle Tyler, the thematic underlining gets heavy-handed. Herbie the welder is a proud Iron Worker from an equally proud union lineage who is facing victimization at the hands of the uncaring "vulture capitalists." At the conclusion of Herbie's speech/rant, the men and women of the previous monologues rise up in a show of amity and solidarity, urging our warrior to (what else?) "Fight!"
So you need to throw a few punches to survive a life of working. Again, this is not a revelation, but the playwrights and players of Working 2020 still land some resonating blows in an evening that should leave anyone who has cashed a paycheck nodding if not applauding.
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Created by Bobby Moresco and written by members of the Actor's Gym
Cast: Maureen Teefy, Tom Bower, Elizabeth Grullon, Michael Pare, Joe Pacheco, Anne DeSalvo, Tonya Cornelisse, Thomas Polanski, Pauline Schantzer, Goya Robles and Joseph Lyle Taylor
Playwrights: Robbie Mangiardi, Amanda Moresco, Thomas Polanski, Ryan Surratt, Howie Skora, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Krissy Shook, Beverly Leech, Anne DeSalvo, Pauline Schantzer, Goya Roberts
Directors: Bobby Moresco, Bryan Rasmussen, Emma Barrett, Jessica Moresco, Julia Hoff, Anne DeSalvo, Larry A. McLean, Bob Costanzo, Robert Mangiardi, Ryan Surratt, Javier Molina
Lighting Design: Derrick McDaniel
Technical Director: Tor Brown
Plays through June 1, 2019 at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, www.whitefiretheatre.com
Running time: one hour, 40 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson
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