Not Recommended * I cannot remember another time where I felt so lost watching a play that I felt, we the audience were being played with. Could it be that Abe Koogler was watching our reaction in order to go back to the drawing board and once again take a close look at the script, the characters, the ethics and all in all, the play, and then come back with one that we would want to watch. The Midwest Premiere of his play, “Kill Floor”, now being presented at American Theater Company is allegedly a contemporary drama that is supposedly going to show us the search that people have for some type of connection in life. While we do explore this, it is how Koogler takes us on the journey that makes the trip one where we hope we had missed the bus heading to nowhere.
This 96 minute production (with no intermission) is directed by Jonathan Berry, who I have known to be a solid builder of stories. It is a shame that he has little to work with in this opportunity. The big black box theater has been redesigned for this show, having audience members on two sides with the action in between. At each end, we see plastic pieces that are what one might see in a factory that uses refrigeration, This is where the furniture used in scene changes comes in and out from. Dan Stratton’s set design, which includes this also has walls that resemble a factory. The story is about a small town, probably somewhere in a cattle community, where Andy (a strong performance by Audrey Francis, who, if she had a better script would have been even better) has come back after being in prison for five years. She left behind a son, B (Sol Patches) who has spent the last five years living with a family in town, who as it turns out took him for the child support from his runaway father.
She takes a job in the slaughterhouse and starts her new life. Her boss, Rick (Eric Slater, who is limited by the role written) is married, but unhappy, and sees a possible “thing” for him. There is a point where it looks as if he might win her over, with the promise of a job in the office instead of in the slaughterhouse itself, skinning the cows. Of course, Andy is searching for love and companionship as she works hard to win her son back. B has a best friend, Simon (Louie Rinaldi) who it turns out is more of a “user” than a friend. B gets him drugs and has sex with him. The sex is very one-sided as B gets nothing out of it. It is all for Simon.
These are characters in search of love and feelings of self- confidence and self-worth. In reality, they are characters who should be looking for the playwright and asking him to develop their beings so they can better accomplish what he was supposed to be doing. The scenes move quickly with the actors making the changes, in some cases, the change of scenery is more intense than the action of the story itself. There is one more character, Sarah (Darci Nalepa brings the only positive attitude to the stage in this role) who is in the story so that Andy has someone to communicate with as she attempts to get back into a normalcy that is even better than what she had prior to being incarcerated.
At no time did I ever care about any of these characters except Andy, who tried to understand her “vegan” son and his rejection of her. There were several times when she seemed real and we rooted for her to get her life back on track. The other characters had no merit. The only other one that might have, yet she had no real reason to count , was Sarah. It is hard to sit in a seat watching the actors suffer and as we were facing the other side of the audience, we witnessed them suffering as well.
“Kill Floor” ( just so you understand the title, it is where Andy works. These are the tunnels where the cows run through prior to their death and skinning, located below. It is called the Kill Floor) will continue at the American Theater Company located at 1909 West Byron Street in Chicago with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $38-$48 and can be ordered by calling the box office at 773-409-4125 or online at www.atcweb.com
Street parking is available, some metered, some not. There are several dining spots in walking distance from the venue.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Kill Floor”