From the Back of the House to Center Stage: LIFERS

Photo credit: Josephine Anes

Photo credit: Josephine Anes

Written by John Shea and Maureen Cornell
Directed by Brett Marks
Produced by Happy Medium Theatre and Argos Productions

March 20-April 4, 2015
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
Happy Medium and Argos on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) Happy Medium Theatre and Argos Productions have joined forces to bring to life a piece of Bostonian, working class history in Lifers.  At an enjoyable hour and a half even with a ten minute intermission, this well-edited and lively play is an ode to the people who make your meal at a local diner possible.

Much gets made of the chefs and the owners who throw their hearts and souls into the making and maintenance of eateries.  Here, an audience can peer into the lives of people for whom this sturm und drang is just a day job, moving from station to station and shift to shift to keep an operation running.

Boston theatre has a strong relationship to food service.  Many of the actors, writers and directors in this community have grabbed one or two shifts, as baristas or short order cooks or dishwashers or waiters with the intent of paying their rent until they make their big or not so big break.  Some are lifers.

For a period piece, there is less attention paid to the period and more attention paid to the actual work at the back of the house.  You don’t get to see the campers and cheapskates and big spenders that frequent the joint, but you do get to overhear the somewhat tender complaining as well as shooting the breeze about life as the waiters enter and exit, often carrying dishes of food, checks and other bric-a-brac.  Slow nights with sidework and the chaos of a rush with threats of walking are given equal time and energy.

The set fills the tiny Boston Playwright’s Theatre Stage with reminders that paying customers don’t wander into the churning gears of a restaurant, with leftover furniture, storage racks and linoleum flooring prominent and unchanging.  The sound design is atmospheric, with dialogue that is written for overlapping and overhearing conversations.  The cast keeps rolling at a pace that is measured enough for an audience to appreciate a joke and not quite slow enough to force a watcher to marinate in it.

The center and heart of the eatery is an old veteran Marie, cracking wise with a lot of love and warmth under all that guff.  Maureen Adduci as Marie carries the bulk of the work,with beautiful moments between all of the cast.  Sherry (Audrey Lynn Sylvia) and Michael (Mikey DiLoreto) are excellent foils for each other, each committed to their own ideals of how a restaurant should be run.

Co-written and co-produced, Lifers is a good example of the awesome things that happen when organizations get together.  Restaurants, diners and pubs aren’t built on one worker, or table or meal, but the combination, after all.

Happy Medium Theatre will bring Christopher Shinn’s Dying City here in June and July of this year, so keep an eye out for their next production.  Argos Productions is dedicated to producing new work in the area and are always looking for dedicated theatre lovers who want to bring new pieces to life.




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