Slaughter City

Everything from race to women's rights to the politics of sex in one grandiose sweep

With this mystical take on a slaughterhouse workers' strike in the early '90s, Naomi Wallace wants to transcend your average agitprop labor play. Slaughter City isn't just about men and women working long, underpaid hours in a meat factory; it also involves the ghost of an immigrant sausage maker and a young gender-ambiguous butcher who may or may not be stuck in time. (He sees visions of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911.) It's a noble experiment, and parts of it work harrowingly well; Slaughter City at least transcends the pettinessof bad agitprop. But it also veers and detours; it tries too hard to address everything from race to women's rights to the politics of sex in one grandiose sweep. (The American premiere in Cambridge, Mass., years ago suffered from the same problem.) In addition, a stiffness in the acting plagues Rebecca Novick's production: Except for Gillian Chadsey (as Cod, the gender-ambiguous knife-man) and the excellent Rebecca Scarpaci (as Maggot, a knife-woman who loves him), this Crowded Fire cast tends to oversell its lines. The harsh details of slaughterhouse work are ugly and fascinating, but Wallace's huge ambition as a writer saps the workers' story.

 
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