Play starring three UF students starts this weekend at The Wooly

The customer is not always right in Thomas Puketza’s play, “Work is Cheap,” starring three UF theater students.

The students are working with Puketza, a Gainesville playwright, to put on his show this weekend at The Wooly.    

Puketza drew upon personal experiences and stories for the play about working in retail, he said.

“It’s funny and it’s fun,” Puketza said. “It’s honest. I think people will find it very validating.”

Chris Alfonso, a 21-year-old UF acting junior, said he will portray a number of characters throughout both acts of the play, including customers and a member of The Service Squad.

The Service Squad will act out job training videos such as good service, dress code and sexual harassment, Puketza said.

“The play is relevant in present day to people who are currently in a job they don’t enjoy being part of,” Alfonso said. “It’s a story we encourage the people to hear and be aware of. Attending this play is a journey worth taking.”

Puketza’s script for the show was read by James Jennings, the president of the American Theatre of Actors. 

“This was a pretty big deal for me,” Puketza said. “Robert De Niro and Paul Sorvino are honorary board members.”

The meeting led Puketza to decide to premiere the play in Gainesville.

“Mr. Jennings told me that he liked it, but it had too many characters,” Puketza said. “He wanted to see if I had something simpler because this script would be too expensive.”

Cost is a real concern in New York, where unions and other factors could drive a budget for a similar show into the millions, Puketza said.

“So I decided to do an old trick from back in the day: put the show up locally, work out the kinks, and go back to the Broadway universe with a successful proof of concept,” he said.

Puketza went to school with actors including Kunal Nayyar from “The Big Bang Theory” and Evan Jonigkeit from “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” but, he said, the “Work is Cheap” cast is just as good.

“They make me feel lucky because I know I’ll be seeing their names again,” Puketza said.

“Work is Cheap” will open at The Wooly on Friday night, with showings at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10.

Puketza encourages guests to purchase tickets beforehand through IndieGoGo or online at Brown Paper Tickets to avoid long lines.  

[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 11/18/2014]

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