Receipt450.jpgThe Receipt, a charmingly subversive play by a pair of brilliant blokes in town for the Brits Off Broadway festival, is framed by a future archeologist’s analysis of one Alan Wiley, a contemporary Londoner – though colleagues believe the city may have been called something like Glondon – and his strange, quixotic quest to find the “owner” of a receipt that he picks up on the street. The story is the right-brain child of Will Adamsdale, who pours sweat as he embodies the Kafkaesque life of Wiley, racing to complete menial tasks for his boss while his mind is elsewhere, on that customer 24182 who purchased a couple of glasses of Chardonnay at Space Bar. His obsession ultimately costs him his job, but Wiley doesn’t seem to mind, for the receipt is calling him to a higher purpose.

Adamsdale’s mate in this lively jaunt is Chris Branch, who spends most of the performance providing pristine sound effects from behind his keyboards and laptop. (He also coaxes a surprising range of sound effects out of filing cabinet.) But Branch also steps forward to embody the various security guards, waiters and bosses who serve as maddening foils in Wiley’s monomaniacal mission. They’re both pitch-perfect as they embody the mannerisms of the underlings who staff the market’s machine, where the consumer-friendly smile barely conceals the savage fangs reserved for those who don’t play along. Though the two may be adversarial on stage, their collaboration is marked by that irresistible chemistry that’s the hallmark of all great comic duos.

The Receipt is one of those precious shows that makes up for all the lackluster stuff a theatergoer has to sift through in search of gold. Adamsdale and Branch deftly take something as prosaic as a receipt and, using nothing but sound, a few filing cabinets, and their imaginations, conjure pure delight from the banal. And in skewering the behavior we humans are reduced to as we scurry along in our modern consumer hamster wheel, The Receipt happens upon insights that are as hilarious as they are poignant. When Wiley’s boss demands to know why he’s devoting so much time to finding the receipt’s “owner”, he can only answer, “Because.” Anyone who’s ever felt isolated in a city bursting at the seams with strangers will know just what he means.

The Receipt continues through May 27th at 59E59 [59 E 59th St] as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival. Tickets cost $25. (Photo by Sheila Burnett.)