Naomi Wallace's 1996 fantasia on labor relations, race and class feels jarringly timely.
1/3Photograph: Sid BrancaSlaughter City at Prop Thtr
2/3Photograph: Sid BrancaSlaughter City at Prop Thtr
3/3Photograph: Sid BrancaSlaughter City at Prop Thtr
By Aeneas Sagar Hemphill|
Welcome to Slaughter City: land of callous, manipulative bosses, dehumanizing work and powerless unions. Naomi Wallace’s mammoth, poetic work takes on the perpetual struggle of capitalism. Cod (Danielle Sharon Goepfert), Roach (Kyra Morris), Maggot (Stephanie Sullivan) and Brandon (Mitch Salm) work the meat in a slaughterhouse, terrorized by their boss Mr. Baquin (Nick Leninger) and fed-up Supervisor Tuck (Lee Peters). Conflicts of class, race and sex have come to a head and the system is on the brink of collapse. The entrance of the mysterious old-school capitalist Sausage Man (Linsey Falls) pushes things over the edge.
Coming on the heels of a number of widely-publicized workplace disasters, labor disputes and mass movements, Prop Thtr’s production feels well-timed. And it’s a strong effort, if a bit uneven. For the most part, the actors handle Wallace’s lyrical dialogue capably, attacking it with real energy, while the design anchors the play’s vivid symbolic world. It’s in the bigger spectacle where the blending of tech and actor feels awkward, flattening some otherwise climactic moments. It’s a wild ride regardless—when it runs, it runs. Wallace’s elevated style is likely to turn away some, but if you’re up for it, Slaughter City’s deep and ruthless critique is as relevant today as it was when it was first produced in 1996. It says a lot about the play, and about our time, that it feels like it could have been written last week.