A little paper goes a long way

Philly Fringe 2018: Trey Lyford’s The Accountant’ (second review)

2 minute read
In this singular office, the papers sigh along with the clerk. (Photo by Daniel Kontz.)
In this singular office, the papers sigh along with the clerk. (Photo by Daniel Kontz.)

Trey Lyford’s latest work, The Accountant, opens as the clerk sits behind his desk, under the harsh light of a single fluorescent strip, staring unblinkingly into the audience.

He looks at his phone, then shuffles halfheartedly through a towering stack of blank, crumpled paper. Vaguely, he continues to search sheets of paper littering the ground. Unable to find what he is looking for, he places a call for a replacement form, sitting on hold for what feels like hours to the electronic echoes of an almost-familiar hold music. The clerk considers his phone. A desk lamp turns to consider the phone. The clerk sighs. A stack of paper heaves wistfully.

Blurring physical and psychic

The union of physical set with the clerk’s psychic wanderings is achieved through deft sleights of hand and acts of illusion, and the various elements of his office begin to assume the life of the clerk’s loss. Discovering these moments provides the audience with as much joy as the clerk, perhaps even more: a banana magically discovered in discarded wad of paper, or an eggshell nested within a lemon. Occasionally the effects are more jarring — a tiny jet of blood leaping suddenly from a cut finger — but on the whole each illusion captures something of the clerk’s intangible loss and make it inescapably physical, freshly present.

The costuming (Tara Webb) and set design (Eric Novak) are just as crystalline, carrying a clarity of detail that heightens the surreal nature of the clerk’s psychic world. A brilliant score by trumpeter Cole Kamen-Green provides a steady counterpoint, which rasps and soars through the narrative. Amplified buzzes and whirrs of ambient office noise also enter and exit, as much characters as the crumpled clerk himself.

Meaningfully minimal

With a wonderfully minimal script also by Lyford, the narrative is conveyed through small movements, sounds, and impeccably scattered papers. Performances by Ben Bass and Coralie Holum Lyford (playing a feral manager and a young girl, respectively) are also strong and provide dynamic power and grace to a production influenced by Samuel Beckett and reminiscent of works by Luigi Pirandello. While the battered clerk struggles to reconcile himself to the losses he has suffered through his own choices, the play’s performance turns what little paper it was written on into a show worth attending.

To read Mark Cofta's review, click here.

To read Cameron Kelsall's review, click here.

What, When, Where

The Accountant. By Trey Lyford. Through September 9, 2018 at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 North American Street, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or

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