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    Free Market

    Working titles

    "Free Market" presents eight new short plays about labor, ranging from a wickedly funny satire about mid-level corporate drones to a horrendous gang summit of the evil empires of the world.


    Two clean-cut, suit-wearing men meet warily in the middle of a surreal megacorporation in which all the employees are named William Williams and none of them knows what the company actually makes. They introduce themselves guardedly.

    Directed by: Joseph Megel.
    Includes individual plays: "Fire Drill" by William Wise; "20/20 Sex Care" by Karen Sunde; "Day of Our Dead" by Elaine Romero; "Kickin Summit" by OyamO; "Free Market" by Jim Grimsley; "Give Us This Day" by Julie Jensen; "Poodles" by Sachi Oyama; "The Border Crossers Lounge" by Guillermo Reyes
    Cast: Godfrey L. Simmons Jr., Arthur French, Eunice Wong, Lourdes Martin, Constance Boardman, Felix Soles.
    William: "I work in the food court."
    William: "I've never seen you in the food court."
    William: "I work in the back."
    William: "There's no back."
    William: "Every food court has a back."

    A mystery woman bursts in with shocking news about what the company really does, and rather than showing revulsion, these two mid-level functionaries quickly start thinking of ways to make things worse — and raise efficiency!

    This is the hilarious, wonderfully sick short play "Free Market" by Jim Grimsley, easily the highlight of the program "Free Market," a collection of one-acts at the Urban Stages theater. The eight pieces — commissioned by The Working Theater, which produces plays about labor issues, including last year's outstanding "Tabletop" — are all over the place, veering from smart and funny to practically unwatchable.

    Worst of the bunch is "Kickin Summit" by OyamO, which comes off as hamfisted when not simply incoherent. Five gang leaders representing the evil imperialist powers of the world point squirt guns at one another while ranting about their badness while promoting George Bush for world potentate. It's like a horrible rap-era imitation of 1960s radical theater, and its clumsiness is highlighted by comparison to "Free Market," which incorporates almost all the same issues but with wit and subtlety.

    Two other well-done pieces are "Give Us This Day" by Julie Jensen and "Poodles" by Sachi Oyama. "Give Us This Day" is a simple scene of a rural father and daughter, in which the father starts out talking about what he wants done after his death and winds up talking, really, about the death of his way of life as his girl displays no interest in his skills as a horse caretaker.

    "Poodles" is gently funny with a point, telling virtually the opposite story — how a young Korean-American takes up his late father's profession, dog grooming, against his mother's wishes. At least, the mom insists, he could groom a respectable breed like poodles instead of plain old mutts. The son makes no apology about working with dogs. "If they're tall ones, you can leave the legs layered so when they walk the breeze catches the hair and makes it look like they're flying," he says dreamily.

    "Dogs don't fly," the mother informs him.

    "Thanks, mom," says the son.

    Most of what's good in "Free Market" is in the second half of the show, so if you're not impressed right away, stick with it past intermission.

    JUNE 5, 2001

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