Ethan Lipton’s No Place to Go is a musical parable about running out of time in the modern economy, except that Lipton doesn’t seem interested in running anywhere. He’s a shuffler at most: resolutely unflashy in a neoretro oddball way, in a thrift-store brown print shirt, navy-blue suit and faintly defeated mustache. And what he really wants is to just stay put, working his longtime job as an “information refiner” at an unnamed publication while moonlighting as “an emerging playwright and an old-timey singer-songwriter.” (“This means that by the time I die, I will be rich in anecdotes,” he notes.) But his employer, in search of ever-higher profits, is moving the operation from the big city that Lipton calls “our town” to a place where real estate is cheaper—the planet Mars—and Lipton must decide whether to follow.
Commissioned by Joe’s Pub with grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts, No Place to Go debuted there last year and has now returned for a longer run, and its wry, gently angry defense of classic New York humanity remains timely. (In its rumpled local values and droll semirealism, the show is a bit like an NPR version of work by cartoonist Ben Katchor.) Backed by a wonderful three-piece band—Eben Levy, Ian M. Riggs and Vito Dieterle, who share credit with Lipton for the music—the singer-monologuist bends various genres (including jazz, blues, country and folk) to his purposes, which include celebrating New Deal policy maker Harry Hopkins and a beloved late coworker. “Do they still make men in Brooklyn like the mighty mensch Mark Giles?” he wonders. Maybe not, but Ethan Lipton is still here, darn it, and attention should be paid.—Adam Feldman