The Garbologists

TheaterWorks Hartford

By: - Feb 19, 2024

The Garbologists is enjoyable, though it depends on well-known tropes, starting with the new worker paired with a seasoned veteran employee who is jaundiced about the job. In this case, the long-term employee is male, and the newbie is female. Each has a backstory that will, at a later point, be revealed and answer some of our questions.

Though the plot isn’t unique, the production now at TheaterWorks Hartford through Sunday, Feb. 25, uses these stereotypes in a way that adds depth. The playwright Lindsay Joelle, director Rob Ruggiero, and the two-person cast skillfully balance humor and pathos.

As expected, the two employees assigned to a garbage truck are oil and water. He is a nonstop talker, mansplaining everything from how to drive the truck to how to lift the bags to life in general. She is quiet; all we know about her at the beginning of the play is that she has an Ivy League education.Of course, that raises questions: why has she joined the NYC Sanitation Department? Joelle takes too long even to give us a hint of a possible reason. Yet, does the reason stand the test of credibility? You will have to decide that. For me, I struggled to believe it.

We see Danny and Marlowe over a period of months. We start with her first day on the job when Danny is surprised that he has a “newbie” as a partner; with his seniority, that should not happen.  Again, there is a reason that we learn about later. He has doubts if Marlowe, who is small in stature, can handle the job. He is the driver; she is the hauler.

In short scenes, we see them working, sharing coffee, and forming a tentative friendship.

The set by Marcelo Martínez García is spectacular. I am not sure how it even fits on the relatively small stage and backstage area. The play opens with the cab of a garbage truck; later, the rear of the truck “backs” onto the stage, which is littered with black garbage bags. The only thing missing, thankfully, is the odor.

I don’t want to give away reasons why Marlowe has joined the department or why she was assigned to Danny. Part of the play is piecing together clues about their backgrounds. Sometimes, their pasts seem both too coincidental and too trite.

Ruggiero has done his usual skillful job with directing. He and his actors let Marlowe and Danny develop naturally. You may start finding Danny annoying and superior, but later in the play, you feel sympathy for him. He may deserve what has happened, but you still like him. I had conflicting feelings about Marlowe; her backstory was compelling, but it seemed contrived and not always credible.

The playwright points out that sanitation people often feel “invisible” to the people whose garbage they pick up. In the same way, both Marlowe and Danny feel they have become invisible.

Despite the flaws in this play, you will find the characters compelling and the script humorous.

For tickets, visit