Written and Performed by Chris Foley; Directed by Padriac Lillis
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 1.31.16
The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street
by Sarah Weber on 1.27.16
Chris Foley in Off the Desk: Tales of a Mediocre Stock Broker. Photo by Kevin Cristaldi.
BOTTOM LINE: A true story about what happens when a kid with rock star dreams chooses Wall Street instead.
A businessman who harbors dreams of being a rock star—a story you’re probably convinced has been told in every possible way. The trope continues to be overused despite how stale it’s become. Yet, Chris Foley’s autobiographical Off the Desk has somehow revived life and a fresh perspective back into this recognizable character. After successful runs at the New York International Fringe Festival and the C.O.W. Theatre, Foley returns to the stage with his darkly comedic tale of poor life choices, sexist coworkers, and his totally metal (but fleeting) retaliations against the corporate machine.
This one man show follows twenty years of Foley’s life, starting with his senior year at Dartmouth College. At odds with his rock ‘n roll dreams and his parents’ Ivy League expectations, Foley first tries to eek out a creative living—he even starts dabbling in stand-up comedy when he’s not playing metal on the radio. But, he soon concedes to Wall Street when he sees his friends making six figures so soon after graduation. Thus begins his topsy-turvy life climbing up the corporate ladder and working with strange characters who teach Foley about life, women, and making as much money as possible. Sounds peachy enough, but life tethered to cubicles and computer screens wears him down over time.
Foley’s comedy exists in a liminal space between his light quips and the dark reality of his failing health and sanity. His self-deprecation about the cocktail of medicines he needed to take for his growing list of ailments is genuinely funny. But in laughing at Foley’s misfortunes the comedy feels like a self-defense mechanism against his unfulfilling life. What struck me most was the sad irony towards the end, when he spends thousands of dollars in one evening on strippers, drugs, and booze—is this not, in a stereotypical sense, the rock star life? The very same rock star life he wanted as a twenty-something?
Don’t get me wrong, Off the Desk is funny. Part of what makes Foley’s storytelling engaging is how self-reflective it is. His raw performance tickles your funny bone, then takes a swift kick to your nerves when you least expect it. Foley also has the many characters in his life down to a science. It takes just one adjustment in his body language and you know exactly who that character is—the accents at that point are just icing on the cake.
Like any live performance there were a few hiccups the performance I attended; the energy of the show wavered towards the end, and a line was flubbed here and there. But solo shows are one of the most exhausting (and scariest) challenges an artist can impose on themselves. And Foley met that challenge wonderfully. Padriac Lillas’ direction subtly supports Foley’s comedic style. Coupled with Andy Evan Cohen's sound and Derek Miller’s lighting the audience can see Foley’s underlying need for a creative life. If you’ve ever been to a rock concert, Miller’s design will feel very familiar.
Off the Desk is a great antidote for anyone needing a good laugh. Otherwise, you should see this show just for Foley’s unique story.
(Off The Desk plays at The Workshop Theater at 312 West 36th Street through January 31, 2016. Remaining performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 3. Tickets are $25, $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006. For more show info visit offthedeskshow.com.)
Off the Desk is written and performed by Chris Foley. Directed by Padriac Lillis. Sound design is by Andy Evan Cohen. Lighting design is by Derek Miller. Elizabeth Sophia Strauss is the production stage manager.