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The Receipt

This bizarre and comic tale creates an off-kilter world that's similar to our own, but perhaps a bit more Kafkaesque. logo
Will Adamsdale and Chris Branch in The Receipt
(© Sheila Burnett)
The Receipt is a bizarre and comic tale about a man searching for the original owner of a receipt that he finds discarded on the street. While that may not sound like a very exciting premise, performers/creators Will Adamsdale and Chris Branch prove to be ingenious artistic collaborators, creating an off-kilter world that's similar to our own, but perhaps a bit more Kafkaesque.

Presented as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters, the work is a play within a play. Adamsdale initially portrays a narrator from an unspecified future era, who is presenting archeological evidence of life in a city from ages past that they speculate might be named "Glondon." In particular, the narrator focuses on the story of a man named Wylie (also played by Adamsdale) who is the one who finds the receipt of the play's title.

Wylie works for a company called Rotoplas, although he's not quite sure what they do there. It does involve a lot of bureaucracy, such as a number of forms he must have just to enter and leave his place of employment. Wylie has a bit of a nervous breakdown, and obsesses over the receipt and the possibility of finding customer 241482 that was sold a glass of white wine by Server 8 at a bar. He encounters even more red tape as he tries to track down his elusive quarry. His quest is both funny and tragic, and Adamsdale's performance captures both aspects brilliantly.

Branch portrays a number of the characters that Wylie interacts with, as well as the futuristic narrator's assistant. In addition, he creates all manner of sounds with the help of a synthesizer and a filing cabinet. The former is used for various electronic noises and musical instrumentation, while the latter enables, among other things, some of the more percussive sounds. Branch's soundscape is an integral part of the performance piece, setting mood, location, and tempo.

The two performers interact beautifully, sometimes contradicting each other, while at other moments working in perfect tandem. Adamsdale has an easy rapport with the audience, often speaking directly to them. The futuristic frame of the performance allows the duo to comment upon contemporary life in a way that points out its absurdities while also provoking laughter of recognition.

The Receipt includes two songs, the first of which is a hilarious duet in which Wylie curses out the receipt that he is obsessing over. The final tune, written by Corey Dargel, is sung by Branch and is less directly related to the actual action within the performance; it is more of a melancholy lament that reflects Wylie's own state of being at the close of the show.

No director is listed in the program, and having one on hand may have proven useful. There are a few stretches within the 90 minute performance time that go on a bit long, and an outside authoritative eye may have been able to tighten the piece. Still, both Adamsdale and Branch are consistently engaging, and the enterprise as a whole is odd, but strangely satisfying.

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