Sunday, May 02, 2004

Nickel and Dimed (Cleveland Public Theatre & Great Lakes Theatre Festival)

'NICKEL AND DIMED' pays big dividends for CPT & GLTF

Randy Rollison, Artistic Director of Cleveland Public Theatre and Charles Fee, the Producing Artistic Director of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, stood center stage in the Gordon Square Theatre, welcoming the opening night full house to their jointly produced ‘NICKEL AND DIMED.’ Thus ushered in yet another exciting recent Cleveland innovation...a joint production between two local theatre companies.

There have been others, but this one is unique. In these times of tight dollars, to blend subscribing audiences, to run a jointly-produced show for a run that will last a month, is a gutsy move. It is the kind of creativity that has been the hallmark of Cleveland Public Theatre since the team of Rollison and Executive Director James Levin teamed up.

It has also been the practice of Fee, since coming to the area a short time ago, to look for alternative ways of doing theatre. In yet another of Fee’s moves, GLTF will revert back to its roots this year and produce a summer season of shows in rotating repertory, to be followed by a fall repertory and a holiday program. This is exciting stuff!

As to the show itself...millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join their forces. She set out to find out how anyone can survive, let alone prosper, on the minimum wage, on six to seven dollars an hour.

Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She discovered that every job required exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.

The theatres’ joint production of Barbara Ehrenreich’s ‘NICKEL AND DIMED’ is superlative. In spite of some opening night stumbles, the production, the acting, the setting all work perfectly. It far surpasses the script, which lectures a little too much and makes the director, technicians and actors work too hard to get the message across. The cast, under the creative direction of Melissa Kievman is flawless. Each character is clearly developed. There is never a moment when the audience’s attention isn’t anywhere but on the stage.

Nan Wray, Sheffia W. Randall, Nina Domingue, George Roth, Tracee Patterson each play a multitude of parts, with a multitude of accents, and a multitude of costumes and props. Jill Levin portrays Barbara. This is an ensemble piece that defies separating out the performers. One weak link and the entire chain fractures. There is no weak link. Applause, applause!

Todd Krispinsky has created a series of set piece which wheel on and off the stage with precision and ease. The running crew deserves a special curtain call. Trad Burns light, Alison Hernan’s costumes and Peter John Still’s sound design all work to perfection.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: After seeing “NICKEL AND DIMED,’ you will never see a motel bathroom or a eat a restaurant meal in quite the same way again. You’ll think twice before you shop at Wal-Mart. You’ll think twice before stiffing a waitress. ‘NICKLE AND DIMED’ is not just a theatrical experience, it is a life altering experience. This production isn’t just a see...IT’S A MUST SEE!!!