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‘Act Your Wage’ pays out no dividends

By |2018-01-15T18:09:11-05:00January 14th, 2010|Entertainment|

By D. A. Blackburn

It’s hard to laugh about the current state of our economy. News of layoffs, bailouts, plant closings and bankruptcies inspire lots of emotions, but levity is rarely one of them. And this is point proven all too well by “Act Your Wage…The Pink Slip and Fall of an Automotive CEO,” a new review playing Andiamo Novi Theatre through March 14.
Sadly, it’s not merely the heavy subject matter that keeps “Act Your Wage” for realizing its full earning potential. The one-hour, single-act review is largely a victim of weak writing (by Raelene Graham, Jamaal Hines and Mike Shreeman) in the form of a bland, formulaic structure and generally tepid humor. This is so much the case that the half-full opening-night audience rarely broke into laughter, and when it did, it was the result of a peripheral joke or gag unrelated to the work’s underlying theme.

Structurally, the work is a series of short skits chronicling the incomplete evolution of former automotive CEO Philip Ritz from high-flying, big spending executive to cash-poor common man. The skits are loosely strung together, with Ritz’s every-man friend Bill as connecting tissue, but ultimately, the production feels oddly disjointed.
Moreover, Ritz’s journey from Comerica Park to Costco, a strip club and a seedy Italian restaurant provides little humility or growth for the character – and only a moderate dose of imaginative, if slightly unusual, humor for the audience. Jokes about managing the Detroit Lions as a job even an out-of-touch auto executive couldn’t botch feel inherently tired, and worse still, the production fails to deliver anything resembling the “positive message of hope and change” promised in promotional materials. After all, is there really anything inspiring about a failed executive running for political office in a town he freely admits his former company has already ruined?
Musically, the work falls equally flat. John Edwartowski and Mike Shreeman’s songs are on par in style and quality with other reviews of this style, but much of it sits too low in the register for the show’s female performers, and is otherwise wholly unmemorable.
But that said, there are a few good models in “Act Your Wage’s” line. Shreeman’s performance as Ritz is solid and credible, despite the generally weak script. Jamaal Hines, who appeared as Kwame Kilpatrick in both recent “Kwame A River” productions, likewise delivers fine acting as Bill/Billy Mays, and performs with a natural musicality that even this type of light-weight music can’t hide. Sharon Brooks’ turn as Candy, a stripper, is a delight – yielding the work’s funniest character and sharpest dialogue.
In the end, “Act Your Wage” comes off as a disappointing effort from some very talented performers, which is, in truth, a fine parody of the auto industry powerhouse it seeks to malign. After all, lots of great minds thought gas-guzzling SUVs were the future of the business for a very long time.

‘Act Your Wage…The Pink Slip and Fall of an Automotive CEO’
Andiamo Novi Theatre, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi. Wednesday, Friday-Sunday through March 14. $15-$20. 248-348-4448.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.