On Friday night, August 10th, Main Street Arts presented Ethan Lipton‘s play No Place to Go in Saxton’s River, Vermont on the Campus of Vermont Academy. Even though the New York Times has reviewed the show here, I, none-the-less, have been trying to describe the spirit of the show all weekend. The best that I have been able to come up with is:
“Woody Guthrie + Tin Pan Alley + 2012 = No Place to Go”
But what does that mean?
1) Topic. This is a play for our times. It deals with a man who finds out that his company is moving away from NYC, and his internal struggle (often a funny struggle) to come to terms with this new reality. But this is no “company man” story, rather he has been a permanent part-time employee of a large corporation for ten years as a way to subsidize his art as a musician and a playwright. But the job was nice, the job was good in many ways beyond paying the bills. But, it also, paid the bills.
2) Form. The piece is strangely wonderful and a little hard to describe. I suppose it is musical theater because there is a lot of music, but that isn’t quite right. In some ways it felt more like a concert. (For example, at the end, when during a standing ovation, I wasn’t sure if I was clapping for a curtain call or an encore!) But it transcended the form of a concert.
The piece’s dominant feature is a loose, winding monologue that flips effortlessly between spoken word and song. The songs are not really illustrations of the spoken words, but neither are they diversions, they are co-narrate the piece. But they are still songs that stand on their own also. They are plot/not-plot at the same time. This may not seem so strange if we think about the fact that our natural internal monologues often incorporate music and song. Who hasn’t sung along with a song like Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue and not blended the song and lyrics into their own internal monologue? Somehow, Lipton’s piece carries that same flavor of that type of lived experience.
3) Politics. This is a powerful political play, without being political at all. The politics of the play are more of a Rorschach Test, than a manifesto.
You paint yourself into the political message of the play. This is not to say that the play does not have a critical social edge to it; it does. This is not to say that the play is bland; it isn’t. The play resonates so well with our times, it can’t help but be political in its own way.
4) I ❤ NY. From one perspective the whole thing is a love song to NYC without being smarmy. It is a good thing to love where you live.
5) Lounge Singer.