Devon deGroot, Laura Espino and Paul Stout are excellent in “American Hero.” (Courtesy Jay Yamada)

‘Hero’ a tasty look at franchise workers

Delightfully set in a strip mall submarine sandwich shop, Bess Wohl’s “American Hero” takes an amusing look at the plight of low-wage workers.

Allie Moss lovingly directs Custom Made Theatre Company’s Bay Area premiere of the comedy, which showcases a great cast: Devon deGroot plays Sheri, a tired but amiable young woman who sleeps in her car so she can easily commute between the sub store and another job at a taco joint, and Laura Espino is her co-worker Jamie, a sarcastic, uninhibited single mom desperate to remain employed.

Paul Stout completes the staff of “sandwich artists” as the irrepressibly optimistic Ted, a downsized Bank of America employee with an MBA.

At the outset, after interviews in which seemingly no qualifications are required, they’re trained by Bob, the new owner of the Toasted Subs franchise (the versatile David Boyll, who also portrays a customer, guy from corporate and a giant-sized sandwich).

Things go awry when Bob abruptly leaves, disappearing completely, soon after opening day. The workers call the regional franchise office, which tells them to keep the store open.

Minus replenishments of meat, cheese and bread, they do, and they figure out a viable, even successful, work-around as the script explores how today’s workers are at the mercy of big business’ bureaucracy, indifference and greed.

Wohl brings a light touch to the proceedings, offering up absurdity rather than scathing satire. And while the result perhaps feels more like a tasty bite than a satisfying, balanced meal, “American Hero” nonetheless serves up food for thought.

Zippy background music, a fantastic set by Heather Kenyon and excellent costumes by Erika Mae Martin and props by Stephanie Dittbern round out the fun. With photos of giant sandwiches, signs with menu items and slogans and a flowing soda dispenser, the stage indeed looks like dreary franchise shops dotting America’s cities and suburbs.

REVIEW

American Hero

Presented by Custom Made Theatre Co.

Where: 533 Sutter St., S.F.

When: Thursdays- Saturdays; closes April 6

Tickets: $20 to $45

Contact: (415) 798-2682, www.custommade.org

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