Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: PAY UP

By Toby Zinman

Review: PAY UP


 By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

PSSST. Want to buy an “alternative auditory experience”?  I know somebody who can arrange it.

Pig Iron’s smart and entertaining immersive show is about money and the way money has become basic to every relationship; even lab monkeys learn the value of a dollar. And so does the audience: everyone has six opportunities to buy entrance to six scenes, each performed in a white box by people dressed in lab whites; you hear the dialogue through headphones. When you enter, you’re given only five one-dollar bills. See? Profit margin: $1. Slim but sure.

You’re also given white paper booties to wear over your shoes, and everyone is astoundingly obedient as we are ordered around by unsmiling lab technicians.  Crowd control with a Fringe theatre audience turns out to be a snap; we yielded, unprotesting, to every manipulation. 

Sometimes you’re shut out of a scene—you have three minutes to get to another locale--and wander forlorn until somebody comes up and says, PSSST. Twice this happened to me—one was charming, one felt like a scam.  There are two “dance breaks” that are fun and clever, and a terrific finale that leaves us both amused and slightly shamefaced.

This is a reprise of Pig Iron’s 2005 show, with an enormous cast of seasoned actors and student actors (are they paid the same, you wonder? See?).  The real-life experiments teaching monkeys to understand cash seemed less important to this show than it was eight years ago, and the indictment of the quid pro quo state of mind seems less original; we have heard too much recently about fiscal cliffs and financial villainy. 

Because I had a press pass, I had to earn my ticket by writing a haiku right on the spot. Here’s what I gave them, which is definitely not worth five bucks:

Money, they say, is

The root of evil. But it

Can be quite useful.


Pig Iron Theatre Co. with The University of the Arts at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St. Through Sept.22. Tickets $25. Information: or 215-413-1318.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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