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: FringeArts.com or 215-413-1318.

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