With a slow burn, but a solid emotional core, Ethan Lipton's No Place to Go is a serio-comedic "musical" that seems equal parts wacky cabaret act and thoughtful monologue. A three piece band joins Lipton, who is the lead vocalist and performer, as he takes us through his journey from employment to unemployment, when he finds out his job is "breaking up with him."
With Bad Kid, Now. Here. This., the Mike Daisey debacle, and now No Place to Go, I feel like I have been swimming in personal reflection theater lately. But No Place to Go, directed by Leigh Silverman, managed to have a gentle presentation style that succeeds at being personal, emotionally engaging and yet more universally accessible that some other works I have seen. At its core, the show is about what happens when your foundation (your paying day job) shifts under your feet and how you cope with that. As Lipton described it: "I keep telling myself anxiety is excitement in disguise." Having had my out bouts of unexpected unemployment in my life, the themes resonated with me. But beyond Lipton's personal experiences and the "gooey malaise" he experienced, he tries to connect it to larger questions of corporate actions, unemployment in this country, and how good people survive in the modern world today.
Lipton is not the most charismatic actor. But when he starts to sing he lights up. He has a wry vocal style and really shines when he makes convincing invocations of James Brown, Woodie Guthrie, and Randy Newman. It took some time for me to adjust to the piece, the format, and warm up to Lipton but I did eventually. There were really nice moments in the show and I laughed when he described freelancing as "Everybody hates me and I can't find the bathroom" which reflected my experience as a temp to perfection. He did a series of songs by the last sandwich in the conference room and by the final one I actually had feelings for this lonely sandwich. I think I appreciated the work more than loved it, but I am glad he made it. He took an unusual approach and I would check out other works by him in the future.