Sunday, January 13, 2008
He Had a Golden Ticket?
Press 1 to hear a quote.
Press 2 to buy.
Press 3 to sell.
This a recurring choice for Jonathan Mirin during Riding the Wave.com, his light-hearted, one-man show about his experience trying to stay afloat in the turbulent market of the late Nineties. The cheery, recorded voice on the other end of his brokerage line offers him options that could spell escape, success, or failure.
Nilaja Sun recently rolled into town with her solo piece, No Child, about teaching drama to kids in New York City. Well, Mr. Mirin's show has the the same genesis, (he also "taught word games to 12 year-old gangsters,") but his story's route finds him with Sudanese expatriates in Athens, sick on a train crossing India, and discussing share prices with a judge in court.
You see, Ms. Sun probably didn't meet Jerry, the history teacher down the hall, who gives Mr. Mirin the tip of a lifetime - "buy Wave Systems."
The walls of the theater are decorated with wildly varying quote prices, and in a very clever device, the bare stage becomes, literally, a quote sheet upon which Mr. Mirin can keep us tracking the roller coaster of his debt and fortunes lost, won, and lost again.
A likable actor, he dances around the stage nimbly in a very polished and sharp performance. The play really touches on deeper addictions and problems, but it is never overly sentimental and doesn't linger long enough on any episode to risk boredom. This is both a strength and weakness.
Like many solo performances the piece is still in search of an ending. Life doesn't tie itself up as satisfactorily as drama, and he could probably expand on some episodes a little bit. However, the simplicity of his tale lends itself to reflection on the larger story of our nation's experience during the go go 90's and the larger issues of the rise of the investor class.
It can be easy for us to laugh at Mr. Mirin's outright emotional reactions to his circumstances during a time when he went from an actor portraying an endangered species in an educational touring show to an almost millionaire.
But when he hears that siren call of the operator on the customer service line. we feel his dilemma, we wonder what we would have done in his situation. After all, Jerry, the history teacher, keeps calming him down, telling him the latest dip is just the market, "retracing."
The show is at the Boston Playwright's Theatre through Next Weekend.