Playwrights take inspiration from many things, but in Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, Bill Richardson and Veda Hille may have taken one of the more unlikely: the vast database of the world’s largest online marketplace. But from the unlikely comes a quirky 80 minutes that will leave you giggling long after it ends.
Originally produced as a 20 minute mini-musical in 2009, “pushing” to this full-length version has allowed Richardson to pull from a broader pool of Craigslist oddities. But where there appears to be no lack of material, the show never reaches very deep into that pool with little exploration of the people and the motivations behind the ads themselves. We are presented, without narrative, a compendium of one ad after another in either spoken or musical form.
Despite that lack of narrative the show still works, largely because of the abilities of the cast of four (J. Cameron Barnett, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Bree Greig, and Selina Martin), and a little help along the way from Veda Hille on piano and Barry Mirochnik on drums.
They are such a likeable group that it is hard not resist them as they sing about such oddities as the Chili Eating Buddy who wants to trade some chili for weed and sit around drinking coffee in his underwear with another guy. And so it goes, this hodgepodge of what may very well be the definitive “best of Craigslist”.
Surprisingly it never gets tedious as Richardson keeps things mostly light and Hille’s music is varied and interesting. At its most serious there is a recurring thread, woven between the ads for signed copies of the bible and Sarah Palin look-alikes, about a longing for connection and to be noticed, but like most of this show it only ever skims the surface. Being able to keep the show fresh with current cultural references, like RIP Steve Job, will continue to be one the show’s strengths long after this run.
Perhaps ironically, given the recent controversy around the US government’s SOPA, Richardson and Hille borrow from other works, but given the largely unregulated nature of Craigslist this is somehow fitting. In one particularly familiar and extended number the duo gives us a Craigslist version of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango.
Set designer Ted Roberts gives the foursome plenty of space to move with a delightful array of lamps and chandeliers high overhead meant, I am assuming, to represent the diversity of both the people and things that exists on Craigslist.
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata never digs very deep, but damn! it sure is funny.
By Bill Richardson and Veda Hille. Directed by Amiel Gladstone. An Arts Club Theatre Company and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival production. On stage at the Revue Stage on Granville Island through February 18, 2012. Visit http://www.artsclub.com for tickets and information.