If Newt Gingrich ever gets his lunar colony, more of us may find ourselves in Ethan Lipton’s shoes. Or, rather, in the predicament facing the singer-playwright’s alter ego, in his endearing new solo musical, No Place to Go (now at Joe’s Pub, directed by Leigh Silverman). Lipton’s narrator, it seems, has lost his day job—a gig he enjoys, one that feeds him while he writes and sings—because his company recently made the fiscal decision to move their operations to Mars.
Interplanetary outsourcing aside, Lipton’s tale is all too familiar these days, which is what makes No Place to Go so entertainingly poignant. Backed up by a three-piece band (sax, guitar, bass—known collectively as his “orchestra”), Lipton relates the tale of his precipitous fall from financial stability: the shocking company-wide announcement, the employees’ grim choices (follow the fancy execs to Mars? hunker down in New York and pray?), and the final days with coworkers he’s known for a decade. Between anecdotes, he croons folky, funky songs. These range from the historically aware—an ode to the WPA, a shoutout to Tom Joad—to the whimsical: Lipton intermittently impersonates a forlorn sandwich left on a conference-room table, begging to be claimed by some ravenous nine-to-fiver.
No narrator could be more appealing than the mustachioed Lipton, who has the air of a witty, thoughtful Eeyore. And his recession-era song cycle doesn’t just mourn the loss of his steady paycheck, or the demise of his cheerfully hapless company soccer team—it’s also a eulogy for a more affordable New York, a place where creative types could both make art and make ends meet. It’s a strange planet we’re living on if someone this talented even needs a day job.