Who in the world hasn't, at one time or another while pursuing their dreams, found themselves stuck in dead-end survival jobs miles and miles from where they want to be? Lawrence Paone, a writer with a charming stage persona, has written (along with his director, Matthew Aibel) a one-man show for himself based on his struggle to reconcile his dreams of success as a playwright with the reality of his survival job as a box-office manager. That show, Do You Have Anything Closer?, although it smacks suspiciously of theatre-as-therapy, nevertheless has an inviting, conversational feel, makes many salient points about both human nature and feelings of self-worth, and is frequently convulsively, laugh-out-loud funny. If Paone is often preaching to the converted with his tales of unbelievably clueless theatre patrons and the often mindless questions and demands they pose (Will I see everything from a partial view seat? What time does the 8 p.m. show start? Are Urinetown and Wonderful Town the same show? Can I have a "comp" seat for tonight's performance? Is the show really sold out?), he was such a warm presence that it became easy to overlook the esoteric, "in crowd" nature of the show and just enjoy it for what it was: a wonderful conversation with a natural-born storyteller.
As such, Paone has been showcased very well. Aibel's direction was smooth and unobtrusive; the stage was attractively decorated with a reasonable facsimile of a box-office ticket-wicket, playbills from every show currently on Broadway were suspended from the ceiling, and red velvet stanchions cordoned off the playing area (set design uncredited). Yael Lubetzky's lighting was functional, as was Jill BC Du Boff's sound design.
Of course, it isn't news that dealing with the public can be a very frustrating experience, nor is the Buddhist-inspired moral of accepting the hand you're dealt (be it career or seat location) an earth-shattering coup de théâtre. But there is an undeniable truth running through Do You Have Anything Closer? that keeps it from being dragged into a morass of self-pity, and a delightful performer in Paone, who kept it all buoyant and entertaining.
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Copyright 2004 Doug DeVita