Ever worked a minimum-wage job? Then you probably don’t need to see “The Slipknot” solo show at 18th and Union — you already know the story.
If you’re like playwright T.J. Dawe — or have ever counted yourself among the millions of minimum-wage workers in the United States — you’ve endured a monotonous job for ridiculously low pay.
You’ve stocked grocery-store shelves, mopped floors, made coffee, changed diapers, taken phone calls from people who are angry about some bill they don’t understand, driven trucks full of crap, hammered nails, pulled out nails so other kinds of nails can be hammered through other kinds of wood, et cetera, while quietly mocking the fools you encounter in your workaday life. (Spoiler alert for people who’ve never had to work a low-wage job: We’re all making fun of you. Constantly. It’s the only satisfying distraction in the gap between clock-in time and clock-out time.)
And if you’ve ever been one of those workers, you don’t need to see “The Slipknot,” Dawe’s 2003 solo show currently running at 18th and Union, a small performance space between Capitol Hill and the Central District.
By T.J. Dawe. Through Dec. 23 at 18th and Union, 1406 18th Ave., Seattle; $15-$25
(206-937-6499 or 18thandunion.org).
Dawe is an old hand in the Canadian fringe-festival circuit, where quick-hit solo shows are like complimentary bread in a restaurant or non-bylined briefs in a newspaper: a cheap and easy way to fill up your clientele. “Slipknot” — a slice-of-life monologue about a young theater kid who takes lousy jobs to pay his rent — is perfect for those young, stoned/sleep-deprived theater kids who fill up fringe-festival houses and want to laugh, cry and cheer for a story that reflects their lives.
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But unless you’re a blueblood, the show’s not going to tell you anything you don’t already know. “Slipknot” is a breezy, insubstantial postcard from a land you’ve probably already spent years exploring, and its observations about minimum-wage life — the tedium, the absurdity, the way it crowds out more important things like falling in love — are all too familiar.
Longtime Seattle performer Andrew Litzky and director K. Brian Neel make the most of the underwhelming script, with a bare-bones, one-man/one-stool/a-few-lighting-cues production. (The two are no strangers to the international fringe-theater circuit themselves, and one can imagine them becoming enamored with the play as part of some stoned/sleep-deprived young audience in Montreal or Saskatoon.)
Litzky performs Dawe’s text with precisely calibrated, bilious glee. He ramps up his voice for the frenetic lists of absurd details that many a minimum-wage worker has to know.
For example, his elaborate list of the goods in one section of a drugstore where he used to work: “make up, makeup remover, nail polish, nail-polish remover, leg-waxing strips, body-sugaring kits, pantyhose, nylons, control tops, maternity bras, nursing pads … skin cream, cold cream, anti-aging cream … tampons, maxi pads, douches, intimate moisturizers, personal lubricants — as opposed to what? Impersonal lubricants?”
Alternately, Litzky will tone it down to earnestness, like when he’s describing his new job as a truck driver who carts away unwanted shingles: “If someone’s getting their roof redone, the roofers need somewhere to throw away the old shingles, the garbage shingles. I’ve never thought about that.”
Well, Mr. Dawe, we’re glad your young self had a thought in the early aughts. We’re just not sure why 18th and Union — a relatively new space that’s doing otherwise good work, like the harrowing Iranian solo show “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” — felt compelled to share it with the rest of us.
Some plays reveal new facets, new insights, on familiar subjects: love, work, history, politics. “Slipknot” isn’t one of them.