The power of ‘Beyond Caring,’ now premiering in the US at Lookingglass Theatre, is how ordinary the characters and their circumstances seem.
They are three female temp workers, two blacks and one Hispanic, that are so desperate for work that they take the night cleaning shift in a sausage factory and put up with an alpha-male boss who seemingly doesn’t care about their problems.
A fourth worker is an intelligent, black male who also does the shift but has been there for about two years.
After 90 minutes (no intermission) of watching Caren Blackmore as rheumatoid arthritis worker Ebony-Grace, J. Nicole Brooks as strong-willed, single mother, Tracy and Wendy Mateo as Sonia, a penniless Hispanic woman who is likely homeless, plus Edwin Lee Gibson as Phil, their depression-wracked co-worker, you deplore what they have to go through to keep overseer Keith D. Gallagher (Ian) happy.
It gets even worse towards the end of the play when the already exhausted workers are requested to stay longer because of a new sausage trial so they have to clean previously used grinding and other machines.
It’s ugly. But sitting just to one side of the action as a fly on dirty, bare walls, it feels as if what is viewed is a normal way of life for people who have no other recourse.
The feeling of coming into an actual, barren workplace, carefully created by scenic designer Daniel Ostling, is enhanced by the audience having to walk into the set through heavy, see-through plastic panels that separate the work room from the lockers.
The only part of the experience that would have been helpful would have been stronger back story definition so the audience could better understand the three women’s circumstances.
Written and directed by Alexander Zeldin, the US premiere is his Americanized adaptation of the National Theatre production of his play that debuted in London. The Lookingglass play is a Dark Harbor Stories production by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges.
Post –show conversations will be held following the 2 p.m. matinees on April 9, 16 and 23. In addition, Lookingglass is partnering with Chicago Worker’s Collaborative to bring people from Englewood, Elgin, Little Village and Waukegan to see the show at no cost, on April 9, 23, 30 and May 7.
Details: ‘Beyond Caring’ is at Lookingglass Theater in the Chicago Water Works building at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, now through May 7. For tickets and other information call (312-) 337-0665 or visit Lookingglass Theatre.