Theater review: ‘Working’Written by Chad Meredith | | firstname.lastname@example.org
BGSU’s latest production of “Working” gave its audience a powerful portrait of America’s workforce. “Working” is a collection of actual statements by people who work in and around Chicago, adapted into songs and monologues. The source of these statements is Stud Terkel’s best-selling book, “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.” Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso adapted it. The responses span 1978 to the present. The actor’s performances made their audience realize that the characters in “Working” are real people.
Kyle Parker brought authenticity to his performance of Mike Dillard, an ironworker. Parker’s nonchalant tone told the audience that Mike knows his job like the back of his hand. Parker’s delighted visage and occasional chuckle made the audience feel like they were listening to a friend. In the song, “Fathers and Sons,” the emotion in Parker’s voice conveyed Mike’s longing to be with his father, as well as hope for his son’s future.
Dawn Schluetz conveyed the helplessness Rose Hoffman feels as a teacher who has taught the “traditional” way for 40 years. In the elegiac, “Nobody Tells Me How,” the mixture of sadness and frustration in Schluetz’s voice made the audience feel empathy for Rose. When Schluetz rested her glasses on her nose and sternly looked at the audience, she conveyed Rose’s love for organization and “the old days.”
Amy Hunsaker gave a phenomenal performance as Grace Clemens, a millworker. Hunsaker’s accepting tone and robotic gestures in the song, “Millwork,” communicated that, while Grace does not want to work in a factory, she has no other option. As Hunsaker sang the upbeat, “If I Could’ve Been,” her confident tone and undeniable grin made the audience share Grace’s lamenting.
The production was cognizant of today’s uncertain job market. At the beginning of Act Two, a screen showed employment statistics and interviews with people who had lost their job. The fact that ten percent of Americans are unemployed served as a reminder that all occupations are meaningful. Seeing people talk about losing their jobs illustrated the impact that unemployment has on a person’s life.
Talented musicians set the tone and setting of each song. The musicians included a lead guitarist (Doug Neel), a second guitarist (Paul Clohn), a bassist (Adam Meinerding) and a percussionist (Laine Smith). In the song “Lovin Al,” a Temptations-style number, these musicians made music as smooth as Al Calinda’s (Franklin Brewer) dancing. In the song “Un Mejor Dia Vendra,” a guitar gave heart to a Spanish melody.
“Working” applauds people who care about serving others before themselves, regardless of their occupation. In the song, “Something to Point To,” the characters sing about how, when the day is done, they can feel satisfied knowing they helped create something that benefits others. The same is true about the cast and crew of “Working.”