‘Slaughter’ bites off more than it can chew
|Prop Thtr presents|
Review by Keith Glab
In Slaughter City, Naomi Wallace uses a slaughterhouse as a vehicle to comment on a myriad of social issues. Race, gender, labor unions, class, and sexuality all receive attention from this script filled with sexual innuendo – and in the attempt to address them all, very little lands in this disjointed narrative.
Further complicating matters, Wallace brings in a supernatural element to her tale. A demonic Sausage Man (Linsey Falls) enlists a fiery minion named Cod (Danielle Sharon Goepfert) to infiltrate the meat packer’s labor union. Why she should infiltrate it by posing as a scab and a man is anyone’s guess, and Sausage Man’s motivations are equally unclear. But the fact that these nebulous supernatural forces are in the play at all lessens whatever impact the relationships and issues between the mundane characters have.
Mr. Banquin (Nick Leininger) is a caricature of an oppressive boss. He can’t remember the name of his right-hand man Tuck (Lee Peters), sexually abuses his female workers, engages in racial oppression, provides no safety measures for his workers, and exhibits some strangely bovine characteristics. At first, this appears to be the central conflict of the play, but then fragmented tangents layer onto the narrative.
Brandon (Mitch Salm), a college-aged and illiterate white kid with a big vocabulary relentlessly pursues Roach (Kyra Morris), a 30-something black worker. Interestingly, the age and racial differences are deal-breakers for Roach, while her witnessing Brandon sexually assault a pig carcass doesn’t dissuade her at all. Maggot (Stephanie Sullivan) finds herself attracted to the cross-dressed Cod in Shakespearean fashion. Tuck navigates his desire to advance his career with the solidarity he feels with his oppressed workers, particularly the fellow African-American, Roach.
Very little gets resolved in these various threads of conflict. Adding to the confusion, the cast delivers an uneven performance. While most of the cast plays naturalistically, Falls and Leininger deliver enormous over-the-top performances. Salm vacillates form one style to the other throughout the show. It’s an attractive cast, which is good since most of them are asked to disrobe at one point or another, though rarely is this actually germane to the narrative.
Director Karen Fort and the production team create some evocative imagery. The pieces of meat constructed from fabric dyed pink and red work well without being too disgusting. A couple of different effects depict Cod’s fiery nature successfully. The scenes between Roach and Brandon are memorable as staged. But these images don’t have as much impact as they should because the narrative is all over the place and does not provide a proper context for what we are seeing.
There has to be at least a half-dozen different plays in here somewhere, but Wallace refuses to narrow her focus and Fort doesn’t do anything to unify the fragmented pieces. The result is over two hours of confusion with little resolution or reason to care about the characters. This production of Slaughter City bites off more than it can chew, and in trying to do too much it winds up doing nothing at all.
Slaughter City continues through July 14th at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm (no performances July 4 and 11). Tickets are $20, and are can be reserved by calling Prop at 773-539-7838 (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at PropThtr.org. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)
Danielle Sharon Goepfert (Cod), Linsey Falls (Sausage Man), Kyra Morris (Roach), Stephanie Sullivan (Maggot), Mitch Salm (Brandon), Nick Leininger (Mr. Banquin), Lee Peters (Supervisor Tuck), Sarah Rush (Textile Worker 1), Julie Williams (Textile Worker 2)
behind the scenes
Karen Fort (director), Ginney Trover (asst. director), Claire Shavzin (stage manager), Graham Ives (asst. stage manager), Libby Beyreis, Babes With Blades (combat), Joe Bunke (set design, technical director), Dianne Hamm (costumes), Shannon Evans (props), Sid Branca (projections), Keith Fort (sound design)