Encore Michigan

Working at Ford is fodder for comedy

Review October 28, 2016 Martin F. Kohn

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Like so many theater artists in Michigan, Tim Campos needed a day job. His came with a bonus.

Besides good wages, mind-numbing toil and a decent buyout package, Campos got something extra for the nearly nine years he worked on a Ford assembly line: he got a play. And that got him a slew of knowing nods and murmurs from auto workers among the opening-night audience at Campos’ Screw It: Doin’ Time on the Line at Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova.

It may be a one-man show—Campos wrote and performs it—but like the sole actor in another workplace comedy, “Fully Committed” (set in a high-end restaurant), Campos plays many parts: himself, his colleagues, his parents, and others. And he does it all on a bare stage with only a stool as a prop. Come to think of it, the stool also plays multiple parts: a table, a chair, an automotive component.

Anyone who has worked in an auto plant will find “Screw It” validating; for anyone who hasn’t, it is eye-opening. A gifted physical actor (he once won an award for playing a bear; the bear had no lines), Campos literally works up a sweat conveying the grind of factory work and what he calls “the blue-collar dance with the machines;” he is Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes come to life, only funny.

With the skillful collaboration of director Antoine McKay, Campos’ depiction of the characters—and I do mean characters—he encounters on the job is delightful and so is his disquisition on the pranks they (and he) would perpetrate to preserve their sanity.

“Screw It” is more a collection of vignettes than a story and even in a relatively brief (one hour) play, the absence of a narrative arc is noticeable.

A full house on opening night suggests that Campos is doing something admirable—bringing blue-collar people to the theater, and vice versa—but if he hopes to take “Screw It” beyond the hometown fans, Campos the writer needs to give Campos the actor a bit more to work with. For this representation of time on the line there’s some assembly required.

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