“This place is your home,” Gar, a manager of a Berry’s megastore in Vermont, assures Emmie, early on in Paris, at Atlantic Stage 2. That should make the 22-year-old woman shudder. At this emporium, taking an extra minute on your bathroom break gets you docked for “time theft,” paychecks regularly cheat you out of hours, and vindictiveness is a key to corporate culture. This “storeway to heaven” is a living hell. For Emmie (Jules Latimer), home offers no relief. Her mom is dead, she’s estranged from her dad, and her face is busted up, she says, from a fall. Moreover, Emmie, like Gar (Eddie K. Robinson), is black, and in Paris, Vermont – the city of white – that makes her invisible.
It’s 1995, $5 an hour is the going wage, and Emmie’s big-box coworkers face their own dire struggles. That includes Wendy (Ann McDonough), who sips from a flask to stay numb, Logan (Christopher Dylan White), a mercurial wannabe rapper, and miserable Maxine (Daniell Skraastad), who has four rotten kids and a matching attitude. Playwright Eboni Booth impresses in this look at have-nots living paycheck-to-paycheck. The corroded American dream has been covered every which way, but it feels fresh thanks to an ace cast, deft direction by Knud Adams, and the author’s knack for knowing what to leave unsaid and how to layer in a sense of dread. That comes courtesy of Carlisle (Bruce McKenzie), a shady wheeler-dealer who’s as sinister and handsy as Robert De Niro in Cape Fear. It all adds up to making Paris worth a visit.