While trying to tell the story of the everyday laborer, the message was better sung than spoken. The Ithaca College Main Stage Theater production of “Working” displayed talent and dedication, despite the play’s unconventional structure.
Opening with the familiar sounds of frantic typing and phones ringing, the scene is set in a typical, bustling office. These sounds introduce each character, as his or her name is typed and projected on a screen. This makes the performance more consistent and helps the audience transition between characters.
The show employs the style of “A Chorus Line” in that each character tells his or her story and explains how it’s related to the theme of the show. This approach makes it difficult to connect with the characters because their story is only told within one song or monologue. While the production is equipped with captivating moments and actors, the show appeals more to older adults than to the college community.
With this in mind, the actors still manage to be entertaining and engaging. Mike Dillard (senior Will Boyajian) begins the show with a speech about what it is like to be a construction worker. While this sounds like a story that has been heard one too many times, Boyajian is convincing with his accented speech and a heavy walk that is weighed down by a tool belt.
Each performer showcases his or her ability throughout this production. Most cast members play multiple roles and embody every one differently. Playing characters such as a wealthy socialite opposite a restaurant server can be quite difficult, but sophomore Grace Stockdale provides a smooth transition. Senior Ned Donovan’s physical and vocal talent makes his change from a trucker to an overly imaginative hippie successful and compelling.
The most engaging moments in the production occur during the musical numbers, in which characters are given the chance to tell their story. In “Just a Housewife,” a song about the trials and tribulations of being a stay-at-home mother, Kate Rushton (senior Katie Peters) shows her dedication to her family by consistently cutting vegetables for a meal throughout the number. Peters’ emotion and strong voice make for a standout performance.
Joe Zutty (senior Danny Bristoll) later tells his story of retired life with a song that looks back on some of the moments he wished he could have changed. Bristoll embodies age with his slow-paced walk, slight rasp and quiver to his voice —
holding true to the characteristics throughout the song as well. In “Joe,” Bristoll paints a heart-wrenching picture of what life could’ve been if he had a relationship with a past lover.
Aiding these musical numbers through their different time periods and musical genres is the detailed lighting by lighting designer Clay Harding. Though the jazzy genre of the song may seem out of context, “Lovin’ Al” was lit with a bold spotlight on Al Calinda (senior Denzel Edmondson) that alludes to a cabaret-type performance.
Working in a thrust-structured space makes for creative solutions for set pieces. The show moves quickly through different, sometimes contrasting, settings. Almost all of the set pieces roll on and off stage with ease and transform the space within seconds. During “I’m Just Movin,’” grocery checkout counters are brought on stage to showcase Babe Secoli’s (senior Elizabeth Hake) love for her work. In “It’s an Art,” the set consists of only a few tables and string lights, but manages to create the atmosphere of an intimate Italian restaurant, which plays a part in the humor of the song.
While students may be able to relate in the future, for now the show may be somewhat out of place. Nevertheless, viewers will see a production that is charming, witty and well-constructed.