Farmtrucks: A Corporate Coffee Adventure
nytheatre.com review by Robin Rothstein
August 11, 2007
Beware! An evil mind-altering power has permeated our culture and is threatening to take over all humankind! No, I'm not referring to the soon-to-be-released film The Invasion starring Nicole Kidman, I'm talking about that corporate coffee giant on every street corner that none of us can escape! That's right, I'm talking about Starbu—I mean, er, Farmtrucks!
Farmtrucks: A Corporate Coffee Adventure is the latest theatrical offering sending-up the ills of a big corporation taking over the American landscape. Earnest and energized, Farmtrucks opens with a promising musical number that primes the palette for Venti-sized side-splitting satire, but what ends up being served instead are a series of sitcomy shots that ultimately don't leave you feeling as satisfied.
Satirizing the way corporate giants are threatening to overtake our culture, while not new, is certainly something to which we can all relate, so it's disappointing that the creator, Kevin Crook, spends most of the show's time introducing eccentric characters and restating similar themes, rather than committing to building a cohesive story. After the opening number, which does a nice job establishing the show's quirky tone, we meet Ted, an affable, barista-challenged transplant from Tennessee who, though we don't ever find out why, aspires to find his niche in the creepy cutthroat cardboard-cup universe of Farmtrucks Store #3536. Not long after Ted arrives, the store team realizes it must prepare for the Barista Olympics in order to regain its number one status and save its store manager from a terrible fate. This funny premise unfortunately gets lost among extraneous scenes and testimonials that strangle Farmtrucks' forward momentum. As a result, the show, which has the beginnings of a sophisticated Urinetown-like lampoon, ends up feeling more like an unfocused, overlong SNL sketch.
The performers, nearly all graduates of the American Conservatory Theater program, exhibit solid talent across the board and I don't doubt that we will soon be seeing some of them on stages and screens across the country. Nicholas Hongola, who plays Nick, an extremely dedicated Farmtrucks employee, and the most well-drawn character, is a scream and a standout all the way through. While clearly over the top, Hongola still makes Nick come across as real and three-dimensional. Margarett Head as the popular store manager, Margarett; Ted Welch, as the hunky, neophyte barista, Ted; and Brian Stevens as Nick's bitchy ex-boyfriend, Stefan, are also fun to watch.
Jon Tracy's direction is tight in spite of the show's meandering, and his use of simple, movable furniture pieces to represent the Farmtrucks store is efficient and effective. He also does a nice job eliciting some inspired comic moments from his cast, who are obviously having a great time working together. So if you're just out looking for a quick fix of froth and foam, then Farmtrucks will hit the spot. However if you're craving a more full-bodied comedy with greater complexity, then this not-quite-musical, not-quite-satire, not-quite-theater-piece will probably not be your cup of joe.