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Pieter Vanderbeck -- Coffee Break

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It’s easy to treat the “little people” who do the world’s unmemorable jobs as comical characters, like the bus drivers and sewer workers in televison’s The Honeymooners, or to veer to the other extreme in tragic portrayals like Death of a Salesman. Now artist and poet Pieter Vanderbeck dons the cap of Nikolai Gogol and lifts the lid off a microcosm of American working life amid a humble cast of characters: security guards, desk clerks, maintenance men, and janitors laboring at the bottom rung of an unspecified company. Coffee Break spins from America’s caffeine obsession and the relentless, aggressive advertising that once dominated the radio airwaves, and focuses on a crew of working men and women who seldom leave the corridors, offices and infrastructures of a single building, for whom the coffee break is a brief respite of humanity and a glimmer of camraderie. Atop them is a supervisor, and atop him, an arrogant anthill of bosses with schemes, theories, controls and disciplines. Coffee Break is comedy, rife with satire on the limited — and self-limiting — perspectives of workers who know little else other than work, but it goes deeper, showing how those at every level of a company enact the inept cruelties of their bosses upon those below them, so that even a janitors’ workroom, or a restroom stall, becomes a place of surveillance.

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