Imagine yourself in a $7.25/hour job as a “sandwich artist”. These days, it isn’t hard to do.
Then imagine yourself thrown together with two other disparate souls, also sandwich artists, new at your jobs, facing an unknown corporate employer with no direction. It’s Bess Wohl’s play American Hero, a fast-moving black comedy which recently opened at Artists Repertory Theatre.
Sheri (Emily Eisele) is taking on her second job at the sandwich shop. Her father is ill and needs her financial help. Ted (Gavin Hoffman), a 40-something MBA, was downsized out of his solid middle-class job. Gum-popping, wise-cracking Jamie (Val Landrum) has an interesting past and three children to support. Bob (Mueen Jahan), the franchisee for this new business, checks out as the shop is about to open.
Bob’s untimely disappearance leaves the three new hires without inspiration or direction. To survive and in hope of a paycheck, the three form a family of sorts–us against the world–and carry on.
While the laughs come quickly, this is humor with a bitter edge. Times are tough for the three employees, and as time passes in shop, playgoers learn their stories. Not only are we thrown into the Kafka-esque milieu of this country’s corporate fast-food industry, but also reminded of how reality has changed for all of us since the crash of 2008. Shawn Lee (most recently of The Gun Show) directs the play.
Playwright Bess Pohl is a graduate of the Yale Drama School. I recently reviewed Fly By Night, a musical comedy written by three Yale Drama School graduates. Something truly wonderful is going on there to produce such brilliant young playwrights who are finding outlet for their creative new works.
American Hero runs through October 30 at Artists Repertory Theatre.