Playwright-singer-songwriter Ethan Lipton brings a jaunty and knowing look at disenfranchisement the Two River Theater’s “black box” starting Saturday. (photo by Heather Phelps-Lipton)
By TOM CHESEK
Time to give the pink slip to those working-class-hero rockers with their too-easy arena anthems. The clock-punching, cubicle-crawling, real-deal working stiff in all his/her “permanent part time” glory has a new musical mouthpiece and it’s a middle aged, mustachioed, suit-and-tie spinner of songs and stories by the name of Ethan Lipton.
Over the course of several indie albums and the odd orphan track, the Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter and playwright is a man whose frankly honest and devastatingly funny sketches of modern millennial life have regularly tweaked and/or tipped such sacred cows as pet lovers, parents, police, the Greatest Generation and the tawdry ritual of the holiday gift basket. It’s all delivered with a certain jaunty good cheer over arrangements that mix lazybones back-porch blues and blue-yodel Americana with hotel-lounge jazz and the many moods of Randy Newman, Warren Zevon or early Tom Waits.
At the same time that he was brewing up his own peculiar musical cup o’ soup, Lipton was honing his craft as a dramatist one of whose plays (Luther) was hailed last June by the New York Times as a “wine-dark satire… both hilarious and horrifying,” and another of whose plays (Red-Handed Otter) recently made its world premiere at the Off Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre.
Somewhere along the line, the California native wed his way with words to songsmithing savvy and the result was No Place To Go, a song-cycle described as “a musical ode to the unemployed” and inspired by the artist’s own experiences with sudden job loss, dislocated self-esteem and whatever dark passenger brings a grown man back to his parents’ doorstep. Commissioned by NYC’s venerable Public Theater, the show made its premiere inside the Public’s Joe’s Pub earlier this year earning its creator an Obie Award, a Village Voice cover and a December trip to the UK, where the work will be seen as part of the annual All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.
Before that, however, No Place To Go makes itself quite at home inside the Marion Huber “black box” space at Red Bank’s Two River Theater, for an extended engagement that’s being helmed by Leigh Silverman acclaimed director of the show’s run at the Public, and not coincidentally associate artist with the borough-based Two River Theater Company.
The Drama Desk at redbankgreen spoke to Ethan Lipton on the eve of the show’s run of previews a string of performances that begins tomorrow night, October 6, and continues to the doorstep of Opening Night on October 19.