Posted by: strugglesome | November 3, 2011

Self Employment: Flashpoint Theatre Company Presents The Fat Cat Killers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four years or so, you may have the vaguest notion that times are tough out economically. It’s not just hard out here for a pimp these days, it’s hard out here for everyone. Actually, given that the traditional comforts for economic depression are booze and sex, one might suppose it’s actually a little bit easier out here for a pimp these days, but I digress. The point is that unemployment is up and with it soars corporate heartlessness and greed. Or maybe they are just more apparent in these so troubled times. It’s easier to spot the guys eating lobster when everyone else is starving.

But how to right these injustices? How, in a capitalist society, do we even the playing field? Change the laws? Change the policies? Or just say, screw it, and murder the C.E.O.s? Well, these are all options, obviously, but Steve and Michael, the two anti-heros in Adam Szymkowicz’s excruciatingly topical The Fat Cat Killers, now being having it’s world premiere and presented by Flashpoint Theatre, only choose that last one. After all, the shortest line between two bumbling but twisted low-level employees and revenge goes straight through the chest cavity. The story starts with wide-eyed and rambling Steve (Robert DaPonte) begging for a better job while pathetically outlining how little he actually does with his time. Little does Steve know that he no longer has any job at all. And while his manic and self-serving co-worker, Michael (Sean Lally) is at first merely vaguely sympathetic to his woes, when slipped the pink slip himself, he’s more than ready to take action. But what exactly are two office stooges supposed to do at a time when a Phi Beta Kappa can’t even get hired at Starbucks? They could apply for other jobs, switch careers, even, gasp, go to law school, but who has that kind of time? Far easier to plan the kidnap and ransom of their slimy C.E.O Dave (Damon Bonetti). It’s just the logical choice, really.

And so begins (and ends) the tale of our two plucky felons. Because once they have the C.E.O. in their grasp things are a lot harder than wham bam and off to Cabo (which is still a point of contention for Steve and Michael, it’s so hard to choose an extradition-free country these days, isn’t it?). There are ransom demands to place, boards of directors to cajole, beers to drink, not to mention the fact that Michael really thinks he might get that second job interview! In their dingy little warehouse digs (cleverly transformative set design by Thom Weaver and lighting by Michael Hollinshead) the co-conspirators with their charismatic kidnapping victim move further and further away from reality, sweating bullets through Katherine Fritz’s appropriately shlubby costumes and dreaming of millions. But in that sleep, what dreams may come….

Sometimes a black comedy, sometimes perched high on an invisible soap-box, sometimes a buddy-crime caper, sometimes a sermon, this play has a bit of an identity crisis. And that’s a shame, really, because the cast and direction are right on the money. DaPonte’s willfully innocent Steve starts the play as the wimp to Lally’s bolder and more innovative Michael, but soon asserts himself in a quiet creepy way as the more twisted of these two quite disturbed human beings. From his lusty thoughts about a co-worker to his delight in beating up Bonetti’s deliciously slick Big Boss, DaPonte makes each action work with a gleam in his eye and beatific smile on his face. With his inexhaustible energy and solid physical work,  Lally neatly compliments DaPonte’s turn as Charlie Brown-all-grown-up-and-into-some-weird-sex-stuff (you have my permission to use that for Halloween next year).  The timing between DaPonte and Lally makes Szymkowicz’s repetitive and sometimes boring text seem rife with comedy, and when all three actors are onstage this production is what the play wants to be, social satire, starring two idiots who get to stick it to corporate America while we watch.

But the text itself is riddled with false endings, dead-end plot lines, and a lot of stagnant air, and despite director Noah Herman’s neat pacing, the thumping rhythms of Mark Valenzuela’s scoring, and solid timing across the board, the play finds itself shedding momentum like pounds off a weight-loss reality television star and making cliche topics that are still quite topical and painful for most of the population. It just doesn’t seem like Szymkowicz knows exactly what he wants to say or where he wants this play to go, or even whose story this really is, and so it’s actors and designers are left trying to ride it without a saddle, a bridle, or a path.  It would be nice to say that the little guys triumph and the big corporations learn their lesson, but that is, sadly, (spoiler alert) not the case. Though I suppose that’s not the case in real life, either. But if theater holds a mirror up to life, it also has the ability to show us life not as it is, but as it should be. It’s only to be expected that theater uses current social events as source material, but it would be nice to have a bit more theater that doesn’t just comment on the world today, but actually suggests some small, human sized solution, some better way, some reform to the system, some thing that we could actually take home with us to consider, something that lasts beyond the exit sign Instead, we get a few laughs, some cheap violence, and a curiously empty feeling when it’s all over. Put that way, it’s just like the movies, really.

Flashpoint Theatre Company’s production of The Fat Cat Killers is playing from now until the 19th of November. Tickets are available here.

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