Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

No Place to Go
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Susan's recent review of Dear Evan Hansen


Bobby Smith (front), Grant Langford, Tom Lagana,
and Ian Riggs

Photo by Christopher Mueller
As people return to their workplaces after years of working at home–and some are deciding not to return unless they get wage increases and other benefits–the premise of No Place to Go would seem to be utterly of the moment. Interestingly, some things are universal: the work by Ethan Lipton (music, book, and lyrics) and his composing partners Eben Levy, Ian M. Riggs, and Vito Dieterle premiered at New York City's Public Theatre in 2012, when other factors affected the labor market and prioritized employer profits above employee security and fair treatment.

The production now in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is an insightful and often very funny consideration of the plight of the overworked, undercompensated, and unappreciated employees who run the nation's offices. Bobby Smith is a likable Everyman as George, a 50-year-old man who has been working "permanent part-time" for 10 years as an "information refiner."

Director Matthew Gardiner has made some adaptations to Lipton's script, which was originally performed by the authors in non-traditional settings. This version places it on Paige Hathaway's anonymous office set (mostly clean desk, storage boxes, translucent windows) and illuminated by Max Doolittle's sometimes expressionistic lighting design. One of the composers, Ian M. Riggs, remains as a cast member, onstage bass and guitar player, and musical director.

George, like Lipton at the time he wrote this piece, works to bring in a paycheck while writing plays on his own time. (His offstage wife, an artist, is similarly underemployed.) The employees in this small corner of a corporate office have just been notified that the company is relocating to somewhere more affordable than New York City (not really a spoiler–it's Mars) and if they refuse to go, they won't have jobs anymore.

The songs address serious issues with an appealing, snarky attitude, keeping the action flowing over a 90-minute run time. Can George force his employer to pay him what he's worth? Will losing his job mean moving in with his or his wife's "aging middle-class parents"? Would he do better if he incorporates himself? The most rousing song looks back at the New Deal, when the Works Progress Administration hired unemployed workers to build physical and cultural infrastructure that has now lasted almost a century.

While Smith carries the show with charm and skill, the three actor-musicians never leave the stage and create their own charming character sketches.

No Place to Go runs through October 16, 2022, in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 703-820-9771 or visit www.SigTheatre.org.

Written by Ethan Lipton
Music composed by Ethan Lipton, Eben Levy, Ian M. Riggs, and Vito Dieterle
Directed by Matthew Gardiner
Music direction by Ian M. Riggs

Cast:
George: Bobby Smith
Duke/bass/guitar: Ian M. Riggs
Sal/saxophone: Grant Langford
Jonah/guitar: Tom Lagana


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