“Good enough for government work” is a well-known phrase in this “federal company town,” and it would be nice if a play bearing that title could add some spicy insight, a little levity, originality and creativity to help explain it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, where the title could just as easily be “Good Enough for the Fringe.”
Joey Maranto paces the empty stage sharing tidbits of information in jerky, non-fluid passages. Sporting the typical “uniform” of the federal masses, complete with ubiquitous agency identification badge swinging on his neck chain, blue shirt and nondescript tie, with a cell phone plugged at his waistline, he looked the part of a harried federal worker taking the Metro to one of the hundreds of sites to put in his time.
Maranto has all the lingo down pat – the various types of leave requests for excusal from work, (including a humorous definition for sick leave), the abundant alternate work schedules identified by mysterious numerical codes, and an acknowledgement that state and federal jobs are often the positions of last resort (although, his dated material did not consider that today’s economic market is elevating the status some.)
There’s honestly enough to satirize surrounding the lunacy of the some of the situations that policy wonks whack themselves into, but Maranto’s work is pedantic, sluggish, and sometimes just as downright lazy as he notes government workers as being. He’s not cruel or unnecessarily harsh about it. In fact, he peppers his remarks with observations about the hard working, and task oriented focus of entire offices of federal employees, but generally speaking, he puts them in a category of ne’er do wells who would rather chew off their foot in captivity than put in a minute over their assigned duty hours, without a hint of insight about any of them.
The actual, true to life scenarios that he briefly mentions just beg to be satirized; for example, the cash strapped agency that encourages its workers to bring back pockets full of free pens and pencils from exhibit showrooms to supplement their supply cabinets, or using cardboard boxes as modular furniture, things like that. It’s just that there are just not enough of those observations and they feel more jokester than genuine. Instead, Maranto spends too much precious time describing how some workers on travel saved their per diem and got caught at a strip club, and another dead-on-arrival joke about an office ritual of whooping it up when the Washington Redskins beat the Cowboys, only this time during an unannounced visit from the EEO officer representing a tribal council of Native American Affairs. That joke was so winded and awkward that there was dead silence at the punch line. Some jokes actually provoked groans such as an unfortunate derogatory sexual innuendo that ensued from a hurried blackberry misspelling. It doesn’t take much to scrape up that kind of muck. Where’s the creativity, wit, or charm in that?
Maranto has potential as a stand up comedian. He’s been doing this bit for a year or two and is comfortable enough with an audience. He just needs to dig deeper than surface trivia and pat phrases, and reach beyond the low hanging fruit and he’ll discover a goldmine of material to satirize an entire battalion of hardly working, retired in place, GS 12 to beyond government laborers amenable to a good roasting. That’s what we do in this town, appreciate a good self-deprecating blast to keep things in perspective. Then he’ll be just good enough for a paying audience.