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A play about those in the income gap

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Tracey Maloney and Sun Mee Chomet play two sides of the same person
Tracey Maloney and Sun Mee Chomet play two sides of the same person; one wants to live a simple life while the other is obsessed with material things.
Courtesy of George Byron Griffiths

The income gap in the United States has been widening steadily over the past 35 years. A new play at Pillsbury House and Theatre examines how such increasing economic inequality is wreaking havoc on the lives of everyday people.

It's called "≈[almost equal to]" and it's a fast-paced production that follows several different characters who are struggling to get by. There's a homeless man who begs for handouts, supposedly so he can visit his sister. There's Andrej, on his quest for his first real job. And then there's Mani, an adjunct economics professor, played by Randy Reyes. Mani wants to destroy capitalism, but he also wants a full-time position at the university.

Reyes said the show highlights the absurdity of current economic conditions. He pointed to the trillions of dollars hidden away in tax havens.

The cast of “≈[almost equal to]”
The cast of "≈[almost equal to]" at Pillsbury House and Theatre in Minneapolis.
Courtesy of George Byron Griffiths

"And that's people who have money, who are hiding it," he said. "And then they're taxing us people who are doing it right, who are playing by the rules — getting taxed and putting in so much more money than those people who have money and don't give back into the economy." 

The show starts relatively light, and grows increasingly dark as people start making decisions out of greed, fear and jealousy. It shows how money, an abstract concept, has a real impact on our lives. Reyes said it's something he thinks about a lot.

"We grew up poor, single mom, three kids — and now my relationship to money, I'm so nervous about it," he said. Being in the show has made him recognize that he's made some major life decisions based on financial anxiety.

Director Noel Raymond said she hopes the show will get audiences thinking about their own relationship to money. "≈[almost equal to]" runs through Oct. 22 at Pillsbury House and Theatre in Minneapolis. As always, tickets at Pillsbury are "Pick what you pay," in order to be accessible to people of any financial ability.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the show's closing date. The current version is correct.