Jobless hangs with music, humor


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Imagine a typical day in the office. You sit in your cubicle, working  tirelessly. You may stop by the water cooler to catch up on the latest workplace gossip, but not before you sign up for this weekend’s office soccer game. Days are long, weekends are short, but all things considered, you like your job.

Only it can’t last, because your boss comes in and announces the company has been outsourced — to Mars. It is up to you to either move with the company or stay behind and have no place to go.

This is the problem Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra will explore in No Place to Go at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., in a Club Hancher performance. Admission ranges from $10 to $20.

The show, the band members admit, is difficult to define.

“Sometimes, I call it a theatrical song-cycle, but that sounds not very fun,” said Lipton, the frontman of the band and author of No Place to Go. “But if you call it a musical, that sounds too much fun.”

The show is a concert full of songs strung together to tell the story of a man whose job will move to Mars. Lipton narrates the progression of  the story with interjections from other members of the band. “It’s a lot about the struggle to grasp the concept of change,” he said. “I think what a lot of people go through is all sorts of forms of denial and wishful thinking when change is sort of forced upon them.”

When he was commissioned to write No Place to Go, Lipton had just been informed a job he held for 10 years in New York was being relocated to another city. Rather than mirroring his exact experiences in the show, he wrote more about how things felt at the time.

“The truth is that it felt like Mars to most of us,” he said of the city his company was relocating to. “The thing that I ended up making is definitely fiction, but there’s a lot of years of experience in there.”

Since the show premièred at Joe’s Pub in New York in 2011, it has received a multitude of positive reviews, and in 2012, the show won an Obie. Saxophone player Vito Dieterle said he thinks the show has captivated so many audiences because everyone can relate to it.

“It’s incredibly human,” he said. “A lot of people can relate to putting their heart and soul into something and not being appreciated.”

With songs touching on such subjects as the final sandwich in the conference room and moving back in with one’s “aging middle-class parents,” the show has a dry and at some points dark sense of humor.

Bass player Ian Riggs said the show attacks a serious issue — unemployment — in a way meant to entertain people.“It can take five songs before [the audience] realizes that it’s OK to laugh,” he said. “I think [the humor] just helps communicate the ideas. It would be too bleak without it. It’s a lot of fun.”

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