DISHPIG and MR. FOX
(These are Jerry’s reviews of the remount of Dishpig at the Havana in January 2008 and the Vancouver Fringe Festival production of Mr. Fox at Performance Works earlier this month.)
Soaking, sorting, scraping, scrubbing, stacking, spraying. Soaking, sorting, scraping, scrubbing, stacking, spraying. Stack stack stack stack stack stack spra-a-a-a-y. Try saying that as fast as you can ten times in a row. Worse yet, try doing it—hour after hour, night after night, armpit-deep in a sink full of stinking greasy dishwater, the impatient, abrasive cooks and waiters yelling at you to sort, scrape, stack, spray, wash and dry those dishes faster and faster.
It’s minimum wage hell. It’s the dishpit. You’re the dishpig.
Actually, Greg Landucci is Dishpig and all the other characters in this fabulous hour-long take on life at the very bottom of the service-industry ladder, written by Landucci and comic storyteller TJ Dawe. Graphic, vulgar, hilarious and surprisingly moving, Dishpig has emerged from the Fringe as a stand-alone evening that you’ll wish lasted much longer.
Dishpig is a guy named Matt who spent time in Europe after high school. Now he’s returned home and needs a job and a place to live. After a dizzying series of applications, interviews, and attempts to rent an apartment, Matt takes the crappiest job—the only one he’s offered—and moves back in with his parents. He feels like such a loser. Wearing a hairnet and stinking of grease, he quickly masters the numbing routines: scraping, stacking and washing the dishes, emptying the reeking garbage, cleaning the staff washrooms. On slow nights he gets to peel and chop onions. Soon he’s no longer Matt. He’s just Dishpig.
What gets him through each night is the prospect of smoking pot with the guys beside the dumpster out back. There we meet his fellow workers whose male camaraderie consists of obscenity-laced sex talk (oooh, what they’d like to do with that cute waitress Gemma) and fantasies of revenge against jerks like arrogant waiter Zach. They’ll fill his motorcycle helmet with mayonnaise and fart on his dinner.
Under Dawe’s snappy direction Landucci does a great job evoking the quirks of each character: dopers Mike and Dave, resident intellectual Leo, obnoxious sex-boaster Dan, Smeagol-like whiner Murray, and a half-dozen others, including fantastically luscious Gemma. But Dishpig himself is the most fascinating. Landucci plays him as a sweet innocent with a touch of self-loathing and sharp but never cynical powers of observation. He also has a remarkable ability to talk fast. His high-speed dishwashing raps—soaking, sorting, scrubbing, spraying—become elaborate mini-symphonies celebrating the indignities of repetitive mechanical labour.
It may be the world’s worst job but when Matt finally quits, Landucci shows us a beautifully complicated reaction that includes some regret and even a little nostalgia.
I can hardly wait for Dishpig 2: The Sequel.
The remarkable Greg Landucci performs his solo script directed by Fringe stand-up fave TJ Dawe, the team behind last year’s knockout, Dishpig. There Landucci dramatized his funny, degrading experiences as a dishwasher. Here the hilarity and humiliation come from his years as CFOX mascot—living inside the sweat-drenched fox costume, tormented by nasty kids and redneck rockers, compelled to behave in moronic ways. But along with the agony comes the ecstasy: the adulation of crowds, the thrilling realization that “if I acted like that in real life I’d get arrested—and punched repeatedly.” His charming, ingenuous storytelling and hugely energetic acting make Landucci an absolute crowd-pleaser.