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Mike Albo in My Price Point
Smart, sexy, and extremely funny, Mike Albo lampoons consumerism, pop culture, and human interaction with a self-reflexive flair. His latest one-man show, My Price Point, is a hilarious collection of monologues and dances that satirize everything from contemporary gay identity to a scenario of a near-future time when U.S. imperialism has transformed Europe into a "Bush Gardens" that sanitizes and commodifies other cultures for American consumption.

The piece was co-written with Virginia Heffernan and directed by David Schweizer. Albo has been developing material over the last several years, most prominently in the series of performances that he's done with Nora Burns and David Ilku, titled Unitard. Fans of that show will be pleased to note that My Price Point includes three different sketches featuring "The Underminer." This character -- who is also the subject of Albo's second novel, due out in mid-February -- is the kind of person who's friendly on the surface but is constantly out to show you what a worthless human being you are. For example: When the Underminer unexpectedly spies his "friend" at a yoga class, he greets him by saying, "I'm so glad you're here doing something for yourself instead of your usual medicated route." Albo also includes his parody of Jennifer Lopez, which I first saw him perform while J-Lo was dating Ben Affleck but which has now been rewritten to reflect her marriage to singer Marc Anthony.

Other parts of the show appear to be freshly minted. In one of the first pieces in the program, Albo talks about his recent excursion to Maui and how he heard about the devastating South Asian tsunami while there. In typical fashion, he ends the piece by stating, "I guess what I'm saying is that the tsunami affected me more personally than you because I was in a tropical location when it hit."

What makes Albo's witty observations so poignant is that the writer-performer is not commenting on things from the outside; rather, several sketches demonstrate his immersion within the social or corporate structures of which he is most critical. For example, he talks about how he loved a particular job that he once held, writing marketing copy for a fashion magazine. Later, he tells of a humiliating experience where he was hired as a dancer to advertise a health organization that Albo describes as a middleman between the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals; their slogan was, "We bring pills and patients together!" Then, of course, there's the matter of his corporate sponsorship by Adidas.

The title of his show is probably meant as an ironic comment on the fact that Albo appears to have "sold out." This is visually reinforced by his crack team of designers. Jeremy Chernick's set incorporates dozens of Adidas shoes with long, red shoelaces that stretch toward the ceiling. Luke Simcock's costume design has Albo garbed in a succession of Adidas sports gear, including a cute pink jacket that was probably originally intended for a woman but looks extremely fetching on Albo. Rie Ono's lighting design prominently features a gobo that's shaped like the Adidas logo. This product placement goes completely unremarked upon by Albo until the very end of the evening, when he takes a moment to thank his sponsor.

Has Albo truly sold out, or is the whole sponsorship thing an elaborate joke? The program includes a "special thanks to Adidas" but does not actually say that the performance was funded by the corporation. On the other hand, the press release for the show unequivocally states that the Adidas sponsorship is real. "In a unique and original twist," it reads, "[Albo] will be sponsored by the major sports label Adidas and will be working a true and honest promotion of them into his show, along with other corporate collaborators." Yet Albo's performance persona transforms even such supposedly sincere attempts at acknowledgment into scathingly funny parody. No one works outside of the corporate culture, he seems to be saying, but this doesn't mean that you have to give up freedom of expression.

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