Spotlight: Livelihood

Sorry, but you're overqualified to read this review

Volumes have been, and will be, written about the crushing alienation of modern labor, but there’s also no denying its utility in comedy and satire. (Admit it, Office Space almost made the memories of that temp job at the insurance company worth the pain.) Writer Aaron Christopher looks to mine a similar vein in Urban Samurai’s original Livelihood, which takes place entirely within the span of a single job interview gone staggeringly wrong. The affable but desperately unemployed Jason (Nate Hessburg) shows up, résumé in briefcase, to be tormented by apparent corporate overlord Mike (Matthew Greseth, who also directs). Matters degenerate apace, and soon Mike is demanding that Jason refer to him as Yahweh. He tops that with an enthusiastic piece of stunt-eating, combining Tabasco, chocolate pudding, and a pickle. It sounds like a farce, and it is, but a few elements work together to cast dark shadows that deepen the piece. Hessburg is spot-on as the supplicant willing to say, or do, just about anything in order to bring home a paycheck. And Greseth adeptly handles the script’s elliptical patterns, which gradually tease out the untenable contradictions in a mind maddened by life in our consumer paradise. Christopher’s script is consistently funny, and he shows a real gift for left-field one-liners that shock half the audience while evoking laughter in the other half. At times he is a victim of his own facility, and there are a few too many passages that come across as riffing more than comedic storytelling. It also feels odd that Greseth begins essentially mad and then ratchets up his performance to totally psychotic. A transformation from something at least approximately normal might have lent a greater payoff, and given the work the narrative arc it currently lacks. But it’s a fresh, funny new work nonetheless. Now get back to those TPS reports. I need them on my desk by Tuesday.

 
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