Review by Max McCormack
In the media landscape of today, it is practically impossible to escape the temptations of swag. Mega brands pay millions of dollars to pamper journalists in order to get a write-up on their airline, fashion brand, deodorant, you name it! Writer/performer Mike Albo explores this trend while retelling his own tale of a luxury press junket gone horribly wrong.
If you’re unfamiliar with Albo’s background, he explains his life as a struggling freelance writer. On paper he seems successful, having written for giant magazines like GQ, New York, and Glamour. He also maintained a column in the New York Times called “The Critical Shopper.” Of course, for legal purposes, Albo creates hilarious poorly veiled fictional names for the publications and brands involved, such as The New York Tomes.
While barely scraping by, Albo is invited on a press trip to Jamaica, sponsored by the airline Trip Blue (otherwise known as JetBlue) and the male-centric consumer website Dudester (Thrillist). Luckily a projector displays logos and images that help keep us on track. Albo reluctantly takes the trip knowing the Tomes’ strict ethical guidelines, but convinces himself that as a freelancer the rules do not apply. The trip is a bust and he returns to New York to find himself in the middle of some journalistic drama, which results in him getting the boot from the grey lady.
If you follow the media world, you may remember this story from 2009. The digital buzzards, most notably Gawker who at the time was obsessed with the fall of print media, swooped in on the story. The saga was embarrassing for all parties involved but led to this excellent story.
Albo’s solo performance is hysterical and slightly manic. Dressed in a crisp white shirt and white chinos, he represents a member of New York’s most populous group, the empowered but under-paid gay man. As a fashion writer, one would expect Albo’s take to be bitchy and cold, but it is humble and subtle. With so many moments of self-actualization, realizing you are or know the denizens of New York he is poking fun at, The Junket is a soft exploration into the realities of our massively commercialized city.
“The Junket” is produced by The Culture Project and runs through April 20, 2014. Tickets available at www.cultureproject.org.