Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews




picture - The DishwashersTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published May 22, 2009


The Dishwashers

now playing Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters

through June 7


Not much happens in Morris Panych’s The Dishwashers.  Emmett (Jay Stratton) takes a job as a dishwasher after failing at a career in finance.  Aside from a brief endeavor to improve the working conditions for himself and his coworkers, Emmett spends most of the play longing for his former wealth and status—to the scoffing of his new working class colleagues.  By the end, he gets it all back and life essentially goes back to normal   (don’t worry, this is far from a spoiler.  Any half-conscious audience member would be able to predict it within the first ten minutes of the play). Aside from someone dying, we don’t see much change in Emmett or his coworkers—Dressler (Tim Donoghue), who oozes dishwashing pride, and Moss (John Shuman), who seems barely alive.  Both seem more like convenient constructs than actual characters, so perhaps it’s not surprising that their arcs border on non-existent. 


Byam Stevens, director, underscores the monotony of dishwashing by keeping the blocking simple, punctuating scenes with accelerated bouts of spraying and scrubbing.  Unfortunately, The Dishwashers takes itself too seriously to settle into the possible absurdity of its Sisyphysean piles of dishes, and sometimes its style wavers oddly into naturalism without ever really committing to it. The play does not so much “walk a razor’s edge between comedy and tragedy,” as the press release promises, as it unevenly delivers a mix of pathos, worker’s pride, and (occasionally funny) one-liners.  Panych’s script fails to give the characters anywhere to go, and, what’s worse, it fails to make us reflect on why they’re not going anywhere.


The actors, for their part, do their best with the material that they’ve been given—it’s hard to blame them for playing caricatures when they’ve been given such cardboard roles.  Donoghue manages to make a few otherwise lackluster monologues chuckle-worthy, and Shuman effectively wheezes and groans around the stage.  Stratton does his best to make Emmett interesting or likable, but—in light of the current economic climate—it’s difficult to like even a caricature of a failed financier.  Perhaps this is the main thing that makes The Dishwashers seem soggy; though its references to a crashing economy could be highly relevant to the current recession, it fails to offer either a cogent critique or an interesting alternative to the excesses and breakdowns that have created our current economic climate.  Instead, all we get is dishwater.


kestryl.lowrey @


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