The production of "Working," which is currently being staged at the Campus Theatre by the FC Theatre Department; is a wholly entertaining and often thought provoking piece of musical theatre.
A commitment to excellence is what the patrons have come to expect over the years. Such outstanding productions as "Cabaret," "The Shadow Box," "Equus," ,and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" have earned the department a reputation for presenting challenging, sometimes unconventional, and, more than a few times, controversial stage plays. "Working" is a little bit of all three.
Based on Studs Terkel's bestselling book about the American work ethic, "Working" uses neither, a set cast nor an actual storyline to get its message across. Instead, actors portraying people from different lines of work tell their stories about the joys and frustrations of their jobs and lives. Musical numbers accompany many of the dialogues.Director Tom Blank also uses an excellent slide show throughout the play to add another visual dimension to action occurring on stage.
Blank, who also directed such plays as "Cabaret" and "Equus," has done a superb job with "Working," giving us a production which is well-paced and very professional in both style and delivery. Under Blank's direction, "Working" has been updated and localized to include references to the 57 and 91 freeways and Michael Jackson by the commuter's best friend, the morning DJ (good performance here by Tim French).
French, also with Rick Franklin and Gail Waferling, are the only members of the cast who appear throughout the entire play. Franklin plays a steelworker who acts as a sort of central character, coming on from time to time to drive a point home about the hardships of the American laborer. Franklin handles his difficult role very well and even does justice to Billy Joel's "Allentown." Waferling, who replaces French in the second act, plays the nighttime DJ catering to the tastes of a tired working population.
Fine performances are also turned in by Shirley Romano as an elementary school teacher trying desperately to keep up with the changing times, Mario Marela as a migrant farm worker, and Donald Keith as a punked-out record store employee whose hilarious monologue about the virtues of having a "cool" job is a favorite of the audience. Randy Stripling is also" outstanding as the retired shipping clerk. His moving performance is noteworthy since Stripling took the part only a week before "Working" opened.
"Working" is not for those who like their theatre light and breezy. Strong language and emotional performances make "Working" a play that often hits at gut level. The play's intensity is balanced out by the mostly upbeat musical numbers. Besides "Allentown," another Billy Joel composition, "Weekend Song" is featured, as well as two James Taylor songs. The musical pieces were paced by a tight five-piece band led by FC music instructor Gary McRoberts. The choreography was a little rough in spots, but this small flaw is insignificant when weighed against the strengths of the production.
"Working" plays through this Sunday with performances tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the Campus Theatre box office. For information, call 871-8101.