THE DISHWASHERS written and directed by Morris Panych (Tarragon Theatre). Runs to December 18. See Continuing for details. Rating: NNNN
In The Dishwashers, Morris Panych draws on Sartre to create yet another existential universe where salty chit-chat is as profound as it is funny. Not only is hell other people, it's also their dishes.
A former customer at the restaurant where he now works, Emmett ( Jonathan Crombie ) clings to the belief that personal success is tied to what he does rather than who he is. Menial labour doesn't fill the bill.
Yet here he is, elbow-deep in sticky sauces and congealed fat. Kudos to set designer Ken MacDonald for getting the ick factor just right. Brown slime on the beige walls, scribbled notes beside the telephone and the gunky quality of the dust all demonstrate MacDonald's sharp eye for detail.
Emmett's fellow inmates in the dish-pit include Moss ( Eric Peterson ), just barely this side of death's door, accompanied by an oxygen tank and a rolling IV; and Dressler ( Randy Hughson ), the talkative ringleader, whose Zen approach to dishwashing gives him dignity, purpose and plenty of fodder for wandering conversation.
Hughson in particular has the Panych patter down to an art, understanding perfectly how to keep the words coming without pause. As Emmett, Crombie reminds me of a lot of short-term dishwashers I've met: resentful of their role and unwilling to see its importance in the restaurant.
Peterson can do little wrong as Moss, shuffling, coughing and complaining to the last. Watching him go to town on a character like this is pure joy.
With Daniel Karasik in a brief walk-on as a dish-pit rookie, this capable quartet will have no problem putting bums in seats this holiday season. Serve it to your favourite malcontent as an alternative to yet another night of bitching about the boss over pub food.