The moment you walk into the theatre for Sideshow Theatre Company’s production of Mai Dang Lao you are overwhelmed by a greasy craving of familiarity. David Jacobi’s new play takes place at your neighborhood McDonald’s. The set and costumes lovingly flirt with copyright infringement as this play explores the monotony, absurdism, and authoritarianism of fast food corporate culture. Directed by Marti Lyons, this production dissects a world that is often looked down upon by the average American. The stigma of a fast food career is looming over the characters as they navigate personal, business, and criminal relationships while dealing with the worst person in consumerism: the entitled fast food customer.
The play is based on real events. Without spoiling, I will applaud Jacobi’s subtle dialogue and characterizations as he emphasizes the parallels between corporate and authoritarian cultures. This play is hard to watch at times because of the despicable coercion that happens between manager and employee. This is driven home by the fact that these were real events. This is a point that Jacobi emphasizes during the final monologue, perhaps a tad heavy-handedly, but forgivable due to the sheer amount of shame present. Sarah Price deserves special attention for her overwhelming character arc: ending the piece with the aforementioned monologue. Also, Matt Fletcher’s strong performance as Roy, the assistant manager, is of special note. His performance evokes a combination of rage and pity that one only finds in the career assistant managers of the service industry. Having worked for several versions of “Roy” before, I can say that everything from the creepy touching of female subordinates to the attempts to socialize using Metallica seemed to be pulled directly from my own work experience.
Strong performances, solid directing, and a brave script make this a production with a lingering grasp on your thoughts. Best of all, it’s only 85 minutes. Mai Dang Lao runs until April 10th at Victory Gardens. Buy your tickets here. Recommended.
A brief end note: I read this play for a competition a few years back. It’s always fascinating and wonderful to see how new plays develop and surface in different areas.