Working class hero

Working Class

Written by Richard Hoehler
Directed by Leigh Strimbeck
Midtown International Theatre Festival
New 42nd St. Theatre
348 W. 42nd St. 2nd fl. (279-4200)
Non-union production (Festival closes Aug. 5; call for schedule)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

Actors, writers, and directors interested in the one-man show form please take note: you must, must catch Richard Hoehler's one-man show Working Class, currently playing at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Not only is he an amazing actor, his writing is crisp, unexpected, and excellently crafted. Take that back: anyone interested in good theatre must see this show.

From his opening monologue, where he played Eddie, a performer late for his own performance, to its bookend where Mike, a caterer, tries to make sense of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech, Hoehler embodied each character thoroughly, giving each monologue a humanity that was sublime. Hoehler kept his characterizations remarkably different, even though they could have fallen under the same labels: his snippy order-taker T.J. forced to work a switchboard was quite different from Dennis, a gay counterman obsessed with a truck driver; and Bob, a construction worker, was very different from Victor, a Hispanic juice seller. The connecting fiber in the performance was Hoehler's passionate, energetic commitment to the people he portrayed, creating a moving homage to the working man, who more often than not is ignored. Even on a minimal scale, it was evident his performance could have played to a packed Broadway house with ease.

Each monologue was crafted as if it were a one-act play. All seven monologues have a set up, a build, and a reveal. Sometimes the reveal was so unexpected - as in the case of Jesse, who was waiting for an answer to a job application - that it could knock your socks off. Each piece was finely structured; the audience was never left in the dark, and what was best is the pieces was never overwritten. Take, for instance, T.J.'s job: it is never necessary to understand what he does, but his actions can explain what he goes through. Anyone stuck in a thankless position can relate to each of these gems. Each character has a speech distinctly different from each other; even though both Eddie and Jesse have a frenzied build-up, never could one be confused with the other. This clarity resulted from the performer but mostly from the writing.

Thanks to Leigh Strimbeck's superb directing, Hoehler's writing and acting were sharply displayed. The scene changes were handled very well, with only a few props on the stage, never distracting from the performance.

The uncredited lights adequately displayed Hoehler but did very little in setting a mood. The uncredited costumes enhanced the specificity of each character.

Catch Richard Hoehler's tour de force - it is a treat. One thing that makes such good theatre is when the artist involved can teach something to his audience; with Working Class not only does Richard Hoehler teach how good the one-man show form can be, he most of all teaches us what being human can mean.

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: N/A
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 Andrés J. Wrath