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a Musical
by Adapted by Nina Faso, Stephen Schwartz, Gordon Greenberg; Songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, James Taylor, Micki Grant, etc.

COMPANY : Out of Box Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Artisan Resource Center
ID# 5525

SHOWING : June 07, 2019 - June 22, 2019



Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers, "Working" paints a vivid portrait of the men and women that the world so often takes for granted: the schoolteacher, the parking lot attendant, the waitress, the millworker, the mason, the trucker, the fireman and the housewife, just to name a few. It’s a highly original look at the American landscape that is simply impossible to forget.

Director Kristin Storla
Mason/Conrad Andrew Joseph Andersen
Candy/Theresa Mala Bhattacharya
Mike/Tom Patrick Hill
Rose Hoffman Amy L. Levin
Grace/Terry Mary Ruth Ralston
Utkarsh/Charlie Kait Rivas
Frank/Eddie Dylan Parker Singletary
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No Shirking
by playgoer
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Based on Studs Terkel’s interviews with "the common working (wo)man" and updated with the participation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical "Working" combines monologues and songs to limn the work experiences of a variety of people. Out of Box’s production sets the audience on either side of a long central platform, with the surrounding floor used as auxiliary playing spaces. The three-piece band is housed at the upstage wall. In the set design by Carolyn Choe and director Kristin Storla, this is very much a black-box space, with just painted girders on the walls and an exhaust fan as permanent set decorations. A small square rolling platform gets lots of use in the staging, and chairs and tables and a chalkboard frame are brought on to populate specific scenes.

Monica Malone’s energetic choreography gives all the actors a workout. Great care has been given to ensure that all audience members get good views. Particularly at the beginning and end, actors stand side-by-side down the middle of the platform, half facing toward one side of the audience and half facing toward the other side, with frequent shifts. Ms. Storla’s blocking of the non-musical movements is similarly cognizant of audience sightlines.

Annie Cook’s music direction is as fine as ever, but the great amount of movement in the show does affect vocal quality. The show is a workout for the performers in terms of singing, dancing, and acting, but the emphasis is on acting. Everyone gets a chance to deliver an extended monologue and to lead the vocals in at least one number. All impress.

Andrew Andersen and Mala Bhattacharya have lovely voices that are allowed to shine in musical numbers that aren’t preceded by breath-robbing exertions. Patrick Hill’s voice is also terrific, but he’s asked to employ it mostly in conjunction with dance movements. Everyone else has a voice that blends nicely into a rousing choral sound.

The solo moments allow the actors to show off their acting chops. Kevin Qian, Amy Levin, Hannah Chiclana, Brandon Deen, Lakytra Hamilton, and Kait Rivas all have solo spots that truly impress. Lauren Tully, Mary Ruth Ralston, and Dylan Parker Singletary provide constant support throughout the show, gamely chiming in with whatever lines or dance moves the production requires. Ms. Ralston in particular invests her moments with quiet dignity, which is sort of the point of the show -- anyone in any profession can take pride in their work, no matter how invisible it might be to the rest of the world.

Carolyn Choe’s costumes consist primarily of gray work jumpsuits and yellow bandanas, employed variously for various effects, and augmented by occasional overgarments in the yellow family. A fireman’s outfit for Mr. Hill is the most impressive costume. Mostly, the costumes could be described as workaday.

Nina Gooch’s lighting design has some difficulties evenly illuminating the entire length of the playing space, but the more localized scenes are nicely lit. Projections on the upstage wall often give character names and occupations, but since no audience seats are aimed in that direction, they’re easy to miss.

Sydney Tolbert’s sound design keeps the band’s sound level uniform and at a volume that doesn’t overpower the singers. Because of the staging, though, there are moments when you may lose occasional words from an actor facing away from you. The need to project solo lines in a choral number can also take a toll on voices.

Out of Box’s "Working" isn’t a visually exciting show. The black box space and uniform costumes lend a sameness to the look that is only enhanced by Ms. Gooch’s generally subdued lighting. But the show isn’t a fun and frothy musical extravaganza, and the kinetic energy of the movement keeps it visually interesting. It’s the material that comes shining through. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s two new songs don’t hold a candle to the ones from the original production, in my opinion, but the whole production works well to provide insights into a cross-section of U.S. employment.

Out of Box’s "Working" has created a creditable production under Kristin Storla’s excellent direction. It may not be the musical of your dreams, but it’s a production that blends musical contributions from a number of songwriters into a cohesive whole. Talk about an ensemble show! There’s no shirking in this "Working." [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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