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A Song for the Strivers in Evanston Salt Costs Climbing – The Brooklyn Rail

The New Group
Evanston Salt Costs Climbing
November 16 – December 18, 2022
New York

Working for nonprofits, public works, or other “do-good” organizations is far from glamorous. The purpose is seemingly grand; the pay is usually little. Those toiling in these positions may, at their lowest, envy the numbing glory of, say, finance jobs: analysts crunch numbers, work in a high-pressure office, and then do a line of coke to forget—or, at least that’s a narrative Hollywood has sold. True or not, one certain reality is that do-good jobs don’t pay enough for its workers to afford coke. And so they are left to feel.

And the feeling is harder than the labor—or perhaps intrinsically tied to it. Such workers strive not for their own betterment but a group’s, and that pressure haunts. Societal obstacles and inequities generate public workers’ employment. “You’re doing some little good in the name of a Greater Good,” each worker’s job description might read. But if that Good is never met, do its strivers feel continued failure? And if it is, what becomes of their purpose?

That purpose might be unlocked through small effort after small effort, or what Maiworm in Will Arbery’s Evanston Salt Costs Climbing calls a “tininess.” This phrasing and use of language, accessible but slightly off-kilter, permeates Arbery’s play, a bleak workplace comedy about street salters in the titular Chicago suburb.

Maiworm (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) is a public works leader who has nightmares about futuristic roads that will self-heat during snowstorms, rendering her team of salters obsolete. This technology would be more efficient, affordable, and eco-friendly as salt dehydrates the soil it infiltrates and threatens its biodiversity.

The advancement, then, would accomplish some Good. “Administration is service,” Maiworm says, which gives her work a divine ring. But service in whose name? The neighbors who drive on icy roads? The…

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