Americas Off Broadway: The Dishwashers

Morris Panych paints a comic portrait of regular joes who do the dirty work.

  • Photograph: Rick Teller

Photograph: Rick Teller

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

At the beginning of The Dishwashers, the archly amusing and absurd workplace comedy that launches the Americas Off Broadway Festival, a mentor lectures a new recruit about the importance of trust and responsibility with such gusto that you might think he was army brass or a basketball coach. But Dressler (Tim Donoghue) is simply the head pot-scrubber at an upscale restaurant. Or perhaps, not so simply. Canadian scribe Morris Panych makes him part dime-store philosopher and part artist, a working stiff who takes pride in his tedious job and doesn’t aspire to move up—the sort of prole who keeps capitalism thriving.

When Emmett (Jay Stratton), a debt-ridden former fat cat, joins his crew, Dressler’s composure gradually starts to crack. Before long Emmett is bribing the wheezing, cancer-stricken Moss (John Shuman) to support unionizing (with cartons of cigarettes) and trying to improve conditions in their windowless basement confines (surely one of Dante’s circles of Hell).

Two hours is more than enough time for Panych to unveil his idiosyncratic subjects and slender plot. Fortunately, director Byam Stevens draws out sly wit and panache. The four-person cast (including Michael J. Fulvio) extracts plenty of humor without coddling their characters or rendering them less than genuine. As a result, it’s clear to us that if they hadn’t drawn the short straw, they might have been lucky enough to end up like Beckett’s tramps—who at least are free to roam.—Diane Snyder

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59E59. By Morris Panych. Dir. Byam Stevens. With ensemble cast. 2hrs. One intermission.