Warner Pacific’s Drama Department presents: Nickel and Dimed
When: Thursday-Saturday, March 16-18, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 19, at 2:00 pm
Tickets: $5 general admission at the door
Location: McGuire Theatre; 2219 SE 68th Ave., Portland (free parking)
There is nothing funny about not getting by in this country.
But there is something absurd about the fact that some of the hardest working people in this country are paid the
least for their work. There is also something absurd about the fact that the United State is one of the wealthiest
countries in the world, but it can’t figure out (or doesn’t want to figure out) how to distribute the wealth so that no
one suffers from starvation or homelessness. Joan Holden capitalizes on the absurdity of the working class poor’s
situation in the wealthy country to create a fast-paced comedy about a dramatic and downright dire subject.
Can a middle-aged, middle-class woman survive, when she suddenly has to make beds all day in a hotel and live
on $7 an hour? Maybe. But one $7-an-hour job won’t pay the rent: she’ll have to do back-to-back shifts, as a
chambermaid and a waitress. This isn’t the first surprise for acclaimed author Barbara Ehrenreich, who set out to
research low-wage life firsthand, confident she was prepared for the worst. Ehrenreich’s best-seller about her
odyssey is vivid and witty, yet always deeply sobering.
Joan Holden’s stage adaptation is a focused comic epic shadowed with tragedy. Barbara is prepared for hard work
but not, at age 55, for double shifts and nonstop aches and pains; for having to share tiny rooms, live on fast food
because she has no place to cook, beg from food pantries, gulp handfuls of ibuprofen because she can’t afford a
doctor; for failing, after all that, to make ends meet; or for constantly having to swallow humiliation.
The worst, she learns, is not what happens to the back or the knees: it’s the damage to the heart. The bright
glimpses of Barbara’s co-workers that enliven the book become indelible portraits: Gail, the star waitress pushing
50 who can no longer outrun her troubles; Carlie, the hotel maid whose rage has burned down to disgust; Pete, the
nursing home cook who retreats into fantasy; Holly, terrified her pregnancy will end her job as Team Leader at
Magic Maids, and with it her $0.50 raise.
These characters endure their life struggles with a gallantry that humbles Barbara, and the audience. The play
shows us the life one-third of working Americans now lead, and makes us angry that anyone should have to live it.