Fringe 2009: Review—”Livelihood,” Three and a half stars

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by Matthew A. Everett | 8/5/09 • Relentlessly, Brutally Funny – Maybe A Little Too Relentless & Brutal?

“I said the pleasure’s mine! You can’t have it!”

Urban Samurai Productions

Livelihood

Livelihood and Urban Samurai Productions were part of my Top 20 list this year for a number of reasons. Among them, Urban Samurai is devoted to producing good new scripts. A lot of those good new scripts – including this one – come from the typing fingers of playwright and Artistic Director Aaron Christopher. They work with powerhouse actors like Nate Hessburg and Matthew Greseth (the two person cast of this outing). They also work with sharp directors like Katie Willer, who helmed this production of Livelihood for the Fringe. Extra points for stepping up at the last minute when called off the Fringe’s waiting list scant weeks before the festival was to begin.

single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.

Livelihood is relentlessly, brutally funny. Perhaps just a bit too relentless and a bit too brutal, but it’s hard to fault a company for swinging for the fences when they’ve got a group of artists working together like this bunch.

Jason (Nate Hessburg) comes in for what he thinks is a final interview for a position at the company where Mike (Matthew Greseth) works. Mike is the last hurdle Jason needs to clear. Mike not only sets the bar impossibly high, and keeps on raising it – he also keeps it a moving target. Jason quickly becomes overwhelmed by Mike’s nonsensical badgering.

The question is – what is Mike’s problem? Has Jason really stepped through the looking glass, or is there something much more disturbing driving Mike’s harassment? You could go with either answer. The play and production make either one viable. However, after the play and production spend most of their time convincing the audience it’s probably the former, there’s a sudden left turn right near the end that takes us down that darker path.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. The level of intensity, however, became a little much to deal with after a while. Jason wasn’t the only one feeling verbally bludgeoned about halfway through. Becoming one with Jason’s disorientation as an audience member, I was unprepared to follow the play where it ultimately wanted to take me.

Livelihood is an interesting, absurdist parable for our current times, though it was written before the economy and the job market started to really go down the crapper. Aaron Christopher and his fellow Samurai have their finger on that pulse of general unease gripping the nation right now. It’s a good place for artists to be, and worthy subject matter to be exploring, and as always, they do it well.

Maybe they could just hold back on poking that vein quite so hard. Just a little bit.

Brace yourself for a rollercoaster descent into comedy madness, and then Livelihood is

Highly Recommended

Their website – www.urbansamurai.org

Their show page

Then there’s the trailer

The slightly longer trailer

For those of you who want a little more meat to sink your teeth into, how about a 6 minute retrospective on the previous production?

Fringe 2009 – 2:30 Sunday – show #17

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.

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