With designer Angela McIlvain's six-foot-long stuffed cow dangling from a meat hook at center stage for almost the duration of the show, how bad could this adaptation of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle from Cloudgate Theatre possibly be? Stupefyingly bad, unfortunately, a dumpster fire on stilts. Worst of all, it knows it. Less a play within a play than a failed experiment complete with apology, Kristin Idaszak's 90-minute offering attempts to combine a dramatic rendition of "tech week" for a new staged version of the novel, the hopeless unraveling of that production as a shocking scene goes off the rails during rehearsal, and the otiose family slide show that the play's try-hard Writer (Ellenor Riley-Condit) evidently threw together for opening night in lieu of her crapped-out play. The result is a pitiable mess, which I can only hope was the point. Gregory Geffrard has guts as the overmatched Stage Manager, but his mugging throughout the night is inexcusable. This goes for everybody in the cast.
Woe is me. Woe is cow! I wanted more from her. She gets no lines. She simply swings there, helpless, as gobbets of her badly misread novel of origin go whizzing by. Why include her? Why adapt Sinclair at all, when-not to discredit any amount of true experience that went into the raw trauma exhibited here-the adulteration of his meatpackers into one-note archetypes of patriarchal domination appears to be the goal? Rather an inauspicious start for this new company. v