‘Haiku Tunnel’ still a funny take on office life 

click to enlarge Josh Kornbluth is reprising “Haiku Tunnel,” his amusing solo show set in a San Francisco law firm, at the Marsh. - COURTESY TUE NAM TON
  • Josh Kornbluth is reprising “Haiku Tunnel,” his amusing solo show set in a San Francisco law firm, at the Marsh.
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office can relate to Josh Kornbluth’s hilarious “Haiku Tunnel,” a one-man saga of letters and love set in 20th-century San Francisco. Onstage at the Marsh, The City’s premiere space for solo storytelling celebrating its 25th anniversary, the 1990 show (which was adapted into a not-quite-as-funny 2001 movie) is getting a well-deserved revival.

Though it takes place before the Internet and the prevalence of email as the modern world’s primary source of communication, Josh’s tale – he, indeed, is the main character – of his travails as a male secretary going from “temp” to “perm” (temporary to permanent status) in a corporate law firm are far from dated.

Wacky and arcane office systems, politics and hierarchy are timeless, as are exploits of employees whose priorities at work aren’t necessarily company business.

That goes for Josh, who, in his first week as a perm at Schuyler & Mitchell (S&M), manages to find time to write his novel on his computer’s local drive.

What he hasn’t done, and hasn’t quite gotten to, is mailing out “about 85 letters or so” for his boss, the high-level tax attorney Bob Shelby.

Upon entering Bob’s office for the first time, he notes: “Right away I saw the obligatory family photo. That tells you he has sex with women, and he raises children _ which, of course, are the two prerequisites for doing tax law.”

Asides like that – as well as laments about faulty printers and envelope moisteners or the joyous names of compatriot female secretaries (Aline, Arlene, Darlene, Charlene, Carlene, Carol, Karen, Yvonne and Aurora) comprise the bulk of the show.

In the end, the fate of the 85 or so letters not entirely relevant, nor are they a subject of a big payoff. And it does seem odd that head secretary doesn’t reprimand him when he gets to work later and later each day. (Although he does inform her he’ll be late: “I found myself opening up to Marlina’s voicemail,” he says.)

Yet it doesn’t matter in the hands of Kornbluth, a veteran, energetic monologuist (“Red Diaper Baby,” “Love & Taxes”) with a Woody Allen-esque appearance, but who’s also a good actor. Josh amusingly imitates the no-nonsense Bob, on the speakerphone, because, he observantly points out, big successful lawyers don’t actually ever touch phones.

As for the show’s title, it refers to one of Josh’s temp jobs before S&M, a word processing gig typing up engineering reports for a tunnel being built in Hawaii.


Haiku Tunnel

Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes Feb. 7

Tickets: $20 to $100

Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org

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Leslie Katz

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