The title itself, “Nickel and Dimed,” based on the best-selling book, by Barbara Ehrenreich, from her perspective as an undercover journalist, is emblematic of the working poor amongst us, just barely getting by in America’s labor force. This enlightening play, now in its run at the Hudson Mainstage in Hollywood, is a 2 hour expose, as the talented cast portray a microcosm of today’s work world and the pathetic nature of society’s inequalities and the abusive nature of corporations and upper level management. The audience gets a first hand look at the haves and have nots; the rich and the poor; the bourgeois and the proletariat. This is the conundrum of our journey here on earth, the labors of love, the fruits of our labor, all for naught, as it were.
The show features Zachary Barton as Barbara Ehrenreich, who has gone incognito into the bosom of this maelstrom, impeccably playing her role, and hiding her identity and career as journalist. She poses as a low wage earner, and assumes different positions such as coffee shop waitress, hotel chambermaid, and big box store clerk. At one point her compassion shines through, as she befriends and consoles a pregnant co-worker (Veronica Alicino), just trying to ‘maintain,’ who convincingly wins the audience’s empathy as well.
This play, now at the Hudson on Hollywood, is sure to resonate with so many, ‘just trying to survive,’ as it paints a vivid picture of a group of people, whose lives intertwine, in various cities throughout America, placed in manual, unskilled labor type jobs, which they find exhausting, uninteresting, and even degrading, yet keep motivated, albeit low pay, in tasks requiring incredible stamina, focus, quick thinking and fast learning. The play deals with three ‘pretend’ workplaces: Kenny’s Diner; Mallmart; and Magic Maids.
The ensemble perfectly and so incredibly authentically, particularly Kathleen Ingle, with a convincing Minnesota accent and mid-western charm, portray these workers and toilers in low wage positions, merely trying to make ends meet while raising families. The show, like the book, perfectly reveal the failures, unfairness, and inequities that investigative reporter Ehrenreich reveals of the impact of the 1996 welfare reform act on the working poor. The entire ensemble, from worker to manager, was phenomenal, with acting and range of emotions making for an incredible, top notch production.
Just like the book, Nickel and Dimed, ascended to the best seller list ,winning accolades, recognition, and awards, this show too is worthy of ovation, as it honestly encapsulates the dilemmas and hardships facing so many Americans today. Have things really improved at all today for the bottom third of the income distribution? (i.e maids in hotels; warehouse workers; dishwashers; and nursing home caregivers)… that is the question.
The audience learns first hand, almost in docu-drama style, uniquely done in a live theatre setting, of the madness that ordinary people must endure as a result of economic recession, leading to emotional depression. From toil to turmoil… we witness the desperation and escalating frustration of both sides of the coin; with dialogue and humor that stings, yet a radical message of light and hope shines through. It’s quite an interesting premise, as the narrator, lead actress Barton, moves to three cities, posing as a homemaker re-entering the workforce, using her journalistic savvy, yet trying to survive on minimum wage, facing the universal dilemmas of housing, food costs and healthcare.
From page to stage… this show is smart, provocative, funny, insightful, and sane in a world that totally craves these barebone necessities. “Nickel and Dimed” is worth its weight in gold, and one is sure to take away a valuable, priceless message at show’s end.
Hudson Mainstage – 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood
Through Aug 25th
Fridays and Saturdays 8PM
Sundays 3 PM
Reservations: 323 960-5770