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No Place to Go

Ethan Lipton's solo musical piece about a man considering moving to Mars is overlong and often unsatisfying. logo
Ethan Lipton in No Place To Go
(© Joan Marcus)
If monologist Spalding Gray, lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, and rocker Jim Croce ever had the opportunity to meet and collaborate, the result of their efforts might have been something like Ethan Lipton's No Place to Go, now playing at Joe's the Public Theater.

The show, a curious hybrid of concert and solo theater piece, certainly speaks for the 99% and to the days of the Occupy movement in which we live. But despite its timeliness, the overlong (at just 90 minutes) and somewhat scattershot show proves less-than-satisfying.

Lipton's premise certainly amuses. He plays a man who discovers that the company for which he has worked as a "permanent part-time" employee is relocating to Mars in order to cut costs. He is given the chance to retain his position by moving -- with his wife and pets -- to the company's new home in outer space, but he finds himself stalled. Ambivalence, later fueled by anger about his employer's duplicity, prevent him from making the transition with the firm.

The narrator's tale unfolds in a mixture of song and dialogue, both of which Lipton delivers in an utterly deadpan and self-satisfied manner that is initially successful, but soon becomes wearyingly one-note. In addition, Lipton's digressions -- both humorous and on point, even as they're tangential -- are offered with the same weight as the primary narrative.

The music, written with bandmates Ian M. Riggs and Vito Dieterle, proves slightly more varied, spanning blues, country-western, and classic rock. He also has an ear for a catchy lyric and can integrate even the trickiest subject into song. One of the show's most memorable moments is a paean that he delivers to the W.P.A. Many of the numbers, however, would benefit from judicious editing. Frequently, the comic core of a tune is repeated so often that it loses any of its satiric bite.

Director Leigh Silverman, working with lighting designer Ben Stanton, has certainly made sure the show looks stylish, but one can't help but wish that her generally sure hand was felt more strongly in shaping Lipton's work.

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