Working It Out
nytheatre.com review by JJordan
February 29, 2008
Working it Out is the story of two nine-year-olds, John and Susie, who decide to play a game of house. After graduating from "college"—the yard—they move into a new home constructed of cardboard and begin their new lives together. John puts on a tie and Susie puts on an apron. As they demonstrate in one of their scenes, Working it Out is American Gothic for the tweener set.
John doesn't seem so sure about all of this, but he plays along with Susie, who couldn't be more certain that this is what they're supposed to do. John would rather be "playing" with his friend Ryan than going to work everyday while Susie stays home and makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. Well, ok, Susie's mom actually makes the sandwiches.
There is an annoying drip that only John can hear, which in essence is his conscience telling him something is wrong, wrong, wrong. He's gay. Susie is too caught up in doing everything right—they have to get married, they have to have a baby—to notice all the trouble in their cardboard paradise. Essentially these two are living out the lives of their parents, who seem angry and dissatisfied.
Despite this depressing information, the show is pretty darned funny. Listening to the two kids, played by adults Michael Hirstreet and Jennie Sheffield with aplomb, imitate their parents is very telling. One particularly memorable moment comes when Susie decides the way to save their relationship is by having sex and she consults a porno magazine for the how-to. Her interpretation of what's in those pages is hysterical.
The writing, by Amanda Sage Comerford, is witty, and the direction, by Helena Gleissner, even. Really, though, this show belongs to its two actors. Sheffield, over the top in her character, prances gloriously around the stage, while a very convincing Hirstreet shuffles around looking for his action men and wishing they could just play something else.
The lighting design by Anna Dinardo-Smith is simple and unimposing, just what you want when there's so much activity on stage. Although the show is only 35 minutes long, a lot of life is packed into that half hour.