Bulging off the counter’s edge by two finger widths, the cash register teeters with no money in the till. It seats itself back enough to be comfortable, still, there is that hint of tipping over and spilling the empty contents.
Before the start of the main act, “To Leave A Land” opens in a sorry state of affairs. Mark (Brian Simmons) percolates a quiet leafy bitter after-taste of finding peace in wanting to do more for the family as they claw back at staying where they’ve always been. To salt the tears of blindness in thinking that prosperous days long gone have a chance to come again. Life tends to squeeze out the heart of a place. It’s enough that it has a grip that crushes dreams into the bald reality of doing more than making do to make it into the next month. Sad is the sigh at the need for pragmatism.“Waiting for Bardot” establishes quick ground between Esther (Tiffany Warren) and Albert (Brian Simmons) to spread an edging out of opinions as they tally back and forth on what makes for their ideal desire. Warren seethes patience while Simmons jostles in bombastic explications. The passionate postulation is ludicrous in its flamboyance. Each level of reason seems to climb up higher on the previous. Once more and the height of scholarly arrogance tops itself again and again. It works itself into a lather without trying, but still trying to keep a distance in a desperate search for that iffy sense of closeness to perfection.
It’s an odd bird “What A Day” with Alice (Martha Pratt) and Bob (Brian Covert) being clockwork beings of limited understanding of their world. Old (Brian Simmons) potters above them about while their colleague, Frederika (Tiffany Warren) tries to shine the light of the bigger world to them. To shake them out of their all-consuming reverie and bliss in being beings with nothing but safety in the spinning cogs of blind regularity. It’s a shakeable, dark world out there.
With scant time to split a ravine at the end of the shorts, the feature story begins quick on the dust of the last act shuffling off.
And here, in American Hero, it’s wafting scenes of cautionary notes. Of the fetid scourge of company loyalty fixed up with shreds of lettuce and dead flesh lining the carcass of deli meats. Lowly workers fenced in, listening to the corporate dial tone of a busy nothingness as everything hits the fan.
Sandwich-making peons cup their hands for the dancing rainfall made from shreddings of a pay cheque. Or more to the promise of that cheque. There on staff we have Sheri (Bailey Patterson), Ted (Keifer Adkins) and Jamie (Krissy Brant). Each one locked into the inertia of employment absent anything gainful or fulfilling other than being able to step outside of their hovel for eight hours of the day shovelling up customer service in a bread roll.
Exacting the means of production when oversight disappears and workers fend to their own devices, it’s a staggering amount of food safety violations amidst the workplace shenanigans. There is a supposed catalyst in the guise of store owner, Bob (Thomas Alvey), but showing up for a few minutes of work and running off stage with someone else’s briefcase makes little for motivation. There is “mystery” per se, technically with that odd Baltic-ish accent, it just doesn’t drive much and sticks to what the workers behind generate for themselves.
Their own pockets of misery exist enough to touch each other’s. Non-toxic on the surface, the underlying message is that true happiness at work allows the hollow wakefulness of life underneath to skirt by. Another day to work up to. Another day to churn out the hours looking for that chunk of the dream that doesn’t scream back drowning in hopelessness.
Time drifts away in a montage with Sheri hanging on the phone. Each beat adding minutes in the seconds between blackouts. On and on the phone waits for someone on the other end to pick up and shed some light in the void. No assistance. The store itself cannot afford to use a phone with a speaker option so locked in as they are.
With cussing and a violent outburst a spot of tension appears on the floor. Perhaps related to the subliminal madness of having a food menu written in white ink on a yellow background. This type of corporate mandate gets nothing in terms of lip, but it’s there enough to question the whole scheme in what headquarters thinks is a sane design choice. Not right of mind and something to sow that lack of support in clarity. They have words to spare with nary a thought to those grunts flipping wax paper rolls in how it all plays out.
American Hero presents an absence of answers with people fending for themselves when they have no clue what’s going on in both the micro and macro. Some by design. Others from being too spun in their own mess to see what else is falling apart around them. Corporate doesn’t care about the people. Only the people can care for other people. It’s how they operate.
Seated in the Black Box Theatre around foodless tables at the 22 September 2019 performance directed by Sommer Schoch at Flashback Theater. “To Leave A Land” by A. S. Todd, directed by Amber Frangos. “What A Day” by David Daring, directed by Frangos. “Waiting for Bardot” by Chris Harris, directed by Keifer Adkins.
Reviewed on Monday, 25 November 2019