Twenty percent is a decent tip, throw your trash away before leaving the hotel room and go see Nickel and Dimed

(09-21-2012)

Review by Linda Relyea

On the corner of First and Broadway in Denver, I worked the graveyard shift at a diner, Mary and Lou’s, the cook was a heroin addict; the owners used verbal abuse and threats to train the staff and 2 a.m. drunks, from a variety of bars, ordered eggs and bacon, and generally left little in the way of a tip – so for me, Nickel and Dimed hit home.

The Adams State University production has a rocking start; a live band on stage gets your heart thumping and your toes tapping. Once the dialogue starts you are there and the beat keeps up through both acts. Funny, definitely, an irritable family expecting a four-star dining experience at a low budget chain, superficial managers puffed up on self-importance, and a host of fast-paced physical comedy. A variety of characters anchor the play to reality – harried, good to each other, minimum-wage workers struggling to pay rent and buy food.

Most of us have been there at one time or another, taking a minimum-wage job as a student, or at least have empathy for people with little to no power in their work-place, except to quit and search for other demeaning employment. Yet the play refrains from creating an atmosphere of blame and shame, rather, with appropriate humor, helps us to relate to the challenges faced by those in the service industry.

The entire cast, Kris Barbier, Katie Fuleki, Leandra Grant, Bethany Hernandez, Caty Herrick, Kat Nuttle, Ian Orbke and Erik Thurston, along with the band members including David Boncyk, John Hauser, Arleigh Johnson, and Mason Scott Miller, bring their character’s spirit to life. I extend special recognition to Nuttle, the lead, who accurately portrays Barbara as the writer/activist with her own trials.

The campus and community have come to expect great things from the Adams State Theatre Department and Dr. John Taylor, professor of theatre, set the bar pretty high for his productions. Using live music and video interviews as transitions from one scene to another supports Taylor’s reputation as a talented director willing to take risks.

Whether or not you have worked in the service industry, this production will make you laugh while bringing home the absolute reality of the millions of Americans who shop thrift stores, live in vans or shelters, and visit food banks, despite slaving through a 40-hour (or more) week.

Nickel and Dimed directed by Taylor, is based on the best-selling book Nickel and Dimed, on (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. The play continues at 7:30 p.m. September 22, 28, and 29 and 2 p.m. on September 30, on the Adams State Theatre Main Stage. Call 719-587-8499 for reservations.