Thursday, April 25, 2024

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The Garbologists

TheaterWorks in Hartford

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

The Garbologists: A Two-Hander at TheaterWorks

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a man and a woman, polar opposites in background, education and temperament, are thrown together on a job where they begin an antagonistic relationship that gradually warms to something approaching a friendship.  That is the basic plot of Lindsay Joelle’s entertaining, well-acted but formulaic odd couple dramedy The Garbologists, currently on stage at TheaterWorks in Hartford.

Marlowe (Bebe Nicole Simpson) is an African-American double Ivy summa cum laude Columbia grad with a dark secret.  Her sanitation supervisor is Danny (Jeff Brooks) who puts the blue in blue collar as the talkative divorced dad who, we learn, can’t seem to keep a partner on his garbage route.  He immediately starts calling her “Shakespeare” while she tries the non-verbal approach and buries her face into her phone.  Little by little we learn things – Danny’s wife has a restraining order and he’s trying to get more time to see his son.  Marlowe has a fantastic education but lives with her parents and is working in a dead-end job after the death of her four-year-old son.

There are laughs and some tears and nothing about The Garbologists really will surprise you save for a last-minute reveal that is so manipulative and hard to believe it makes you question Marlowe’s motivations from the very beginning.  That surprise won’t be revealed here, but suffice it to say it’s a sentimental and contrived wrong turn by the playwright and makes little sense upon close examination.  We also learn little to nothing about why Marlowe has taken this job in the first place.  We can speculate it’s in response to the death of her son, but that’s never really clear.

Given the limits of the script both Simpson and Brooks are a resourceful pair of actors who do the best they can with the material they’re given.  There’s good timing here, a nice give and take between the pair and their relationship, though strictly by the numbers, is ultimately engaging to watch.  Directed with a firm hand by Rob Ruggiero, the play is eventually more satisfying than it has any right to be.

Marcelo Martinez Garcia deserves props, however, as set designer for providing a very realistic garbage truck on stage.  Both the cab and the back end loader are perfectly realized here and it is nothing short of impressive.  The backdrop of scaffolding was less interesting, but when that truck is on stage you are riveted.  Also credit sound designer German Martinez for the realistic cacophony of noise he supplies for that truck and of the New York City soundscape.

The Garbologists continues at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street in Hartford, Connecticut through February 25th. For further information and ticket, reservations call the theatre box office 860-527.7838 or visit: www.twhartford.org.

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