Janine Volkmar’s Theatre Review: ‘The Work Show’

THE WORK SHOW The cast of The Work Show takes the stage Friday, Sept. 13 in Ferndale. Photo by Tom Lurtz

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

FERNDALE – Here at the Mad River Union, we generally don’t write reviews of plays unless they will be repeated the following week. Why should we tempt our readers to see something that is no longer playing? For that reason, we did not review The Work Show at the Arcata Playhouse last February. It was a sold-out success but it only ran for two nights.

Now it will run again, on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Steeple, 246 Berding St. in Ferndale. Tickets are $12 and sold at Wildberries, Mind’s Eye Coffee Shop and Chapman Books  in Ferndale,  Brown Paper Tickets and at the door.

Jeff De Mark and a group of friends have a tradition of putting together these shows that are a fascinating mix of music and storytelling, wrapped around a theme. 

I’d seen their previous show, Fear, and was sorry to miss their show on the theme of Traveling. So, when Jeff asked me to be part of The Work Show, I was thrilled. That, for me, was the equivalent of a childhood experience of playing with the big kids in the neighborhood.

I was nervous but for no reason. The rehearsals were a delight and all the performers were supportive, kind, and fuuuuuunnnnny.  The two nights were a blast, both for the audience and the performers. 

 Rick Levin and The Gila Monsters had chosen songs on the theme that ranged from Tennessee Ernie Ford’s hit “16 Tons” to “Work Clothes” by the Subdudes. 

Ron Sharp, Paul DeMark, and The Hat Lady, Jean Browning, Jeff DeMark, and Levin were a tight rocking band. The addition of singers Pat Comella and Halimah Collingwood, dressed in tool belts, orange safety vests, and hard hats, added sweet harmonies and nifty dance moves to the mix.

The stories, interspersed between songs, blended the serious with the hilarious. 

The late Diana Heberger had the audience laughing with her teacher story of well meaning parents asking her if they should demonstrate sex education to their child by having sex in front of the child. Heberger handled that challenge and other teacher jobs with grace and humor. Heberger recently passed away and this show will be dedicated to her.

Michael Crowley wowed with a story of courtroom shenanigans, blending legal principles and craziness into a funny tale.  Marvin Samuels, aka The Unofficial Mayor of Blue Lake, wove a long narrative of a juice business and the love of his family into a sweet intrigue.

Dick “Doc” Stull told two stories about work experiences when he was a young man. Both were typical Stull performances, full of energy and drama. I particularly liked his evocation of the best door-to-door salesman ever who took a young Stull under his wing.

Jeff DeMark told two stories as well. His story of working as a golf caddy for a ditsy woman had the audience repeating the refrain and wishing they all could 1. Play golf and 2. Have him for a caddy. DeMark’s story about his grandmother was in the vein of his family stories performed elsewhere, bittersweet and poignant.

The only thing I can say about my own story is that it was X-rated. I’ve had an offer to have a car with the engine running in the alley behind The Old Steeple so that I can make a quick getaway after the performance. 

Don’t miss this chance to enjoy a laughing evening!



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