This tender love story between man and corporation won’t break your heart — we all know what happens when the company relocates to Mars, where office space is cheap — but the show gets down inside you and does its work. It’s as sharp and funny a take on today as you’re likely to find. If you’re in New York this weekend, get to Joe’s Pub to see it. The Times likes it too.
Bandleader / playwright Ethan Lipton sings the small joys of the workplace — “I’ve got a place to go in the morning” — and unfurls the half-noticed pleasures of that temporary community, with its private languages — “information refining” — and particular characters, including a special vocal appearance by “the last sandwich in the conference room.” He loves the place, but doesn’t want to leave Our Town.
(Side note #1: I’m blogging from Mars right now, on a sunny spring morning. I commute from here to the outskirts of Our Town in pre-dawn dimness, but I’ve come to like Mars. It’s not as dry as you might think.)
He tells us that his master plan is a life in which there’s “time to make up stories while also eating,” and this brilliant, funny show performs in the wide gulf between economic reality and artistic imagination. The fantasies keep on coming. “When we move in with my aging middle-class parents” leads to “I’m gonna incorporate,” a nostalgic lefty hymn, “Did you hear what they did at the WPA?” — even artists, this song tells us, have to eat — and then the title song, “No Place to Go.”
My favorite parts evoke the NYC office culture I’ve not worked in since I left Random House back in ’92. The dark guttural of the last sandwich in the conference room growls, “Somebody wants me!” The center fullback of the soccer team keeps everyone organized. “Do they still make men in Brooklyn?” asks a strong sentimental ballad.
(Side note #2: The competitive spirit in the soccer song made me think back to the last time I saw Ethan Lipton in person, playing ultimate frisbee at UCLA with the Buffalo Nights gang. I remember he was pissed at me for not throwing the disk his way.)
The closer was “Nothing but a comeback in my wallet,” with supporting vocals from the brilliant three-piece “orchestra,” the highlight of which, from where I was sitting anyway, was Vito Dieterle’s gorgeous saxophone.
We might not be able to believe that saxophones and songs can break corporate power. But somewhere above Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie smiles down on this one.
Again, if you’re in New York this weekend, get thee to Joe’s Pub.