Hints of Gray

As promised, last night my darling girlfriend and I headed over to see “HELP WANTED: A Personal Search for Meaningful Employment at the Start of the 21st Century.” I was lured by the promise of something in a vein inspired by the late, lamented Spalding Gray, who Lefkowitz identifies as his last great hero – someone whose work inspired him before the day he turned twenty, which a former acting professor claimed was when you crossed the Rubicon into adulthood and from thenceforth everyone became respected peers rather than heroes.

Lefkowitz does his solo performance in Gray’s signature style, alone at a table and chair with no accompaniment but some notes and a glass & pitcher of water. In his mid-twenties Lefkowitz doesn’t quite manage it with the ease that Gray always seemed to me to show, but that’s okay. He’s almost two decades younger than the most youthful I ever witnessed Gray and it’s meant to be in part a tribute piece. To be a perfect mouthpiece would actually make it worse.

Help Wanted” sets a reasonable goal and achieves it. We get a Gray-like monologue that covers a personal journey independent of the timeframe. Lefkowitz starts his story in 2003, covers some time, scrolls back to 2001, days before September 11th, brings us back into the present-day of the story and moves forward though to the time just after Gray’s death. There’s also a few jumps forward and backward to pertinent experiences and stories along the way. Through all that, however, it’s never confusing because it succeeds the same way Gray always did: by telling a story with emotional and experiential truth regardless of chronological order. Things in the past suddenly come to resonate because of things in the present, and important events come together in our minds despite being separated by big chunks of time.

With regards to this specific performance I think “Help Wanted” suffers slightly from the venue. Although there’s a funny bit of stagecraft in the middle that works the synagogue setting into the piece at an opportune moment the acoustics aren’t great for a monologue and I had to strain to hear a few phrases. Lefkowitz works the audience masterfully, however, mixing his powerful eye contact with the storytelling as he shifts focus throughout the room. When his eyes would settle on me I could completely believe this was someone telling me and a few others an amusing story while we were out for a drink.

I can’t recommend this piece highly enough and it’s a bargain at $15. Darling girlfriend enjoyed it as well, despite (tragically) never having been exposed to Spalding Gray’s work.

If you go you’ll enter for the performance at the sanctuary entrance on the north side, facing I street. You’ll have to get your tickets at the box office which is through the below-street entrance along 6th street, however.

6th & I Historic Synagogue – Sanctuary
600 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

remaining performance Sunday@8:30pm, Monday@10:00pm, Tuesday@6:15pm, AND Wednesday@7:45pm

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