visitorium

Fire in the Factory

In Theatre on May 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm

A touch late with this one…a running theme with this blog lately, I know, but this time it wasn’t my fault!!  I was all set to do some afternoon writing yesterday, before a pleasant evening of YOUTH INFRINGEMENT, when I got the dreaded text from the drudgery.  Some damn fool of a cook went and gave himself food poisoning, which meant I got drafted to step in and help out.   And okay, okay, I’m going to be a poor student in a few months and could use all the stockpiled cash I could get, but I’m also a very spoiled theatre nerd and I get all grumpy when my goofy plans get all futzed up.  Grumble, grumble.  Now I’m gonna have to move Heaven and Earth to see all the shows, for the love of…

But I’m getting off topic, and I’m already late, so I’d better get cracking.  The show from a couple nights ago now was the latest from those subterranean SAW dwellers in the Red.Collective, with their new ensemble  production of THE TRIANGLE FACTORY FIRE PROJECT by Christopher Pielher (with Scott Alan Evans).  Partly verbatim from actual firsthand accounts, and I’m assuming partly created as well, this ‘project’ tells the terrible story of a factory fire in New York 1911.  Teeming with low-paid female immigrant workers (fresh off a mostly unsuccessful strike action), and equipped with about as many safety features as you might expect from a turn-of-the-century sweatshop, when fire breaks out the death toll is catastrophic, and swift.  The resulting fallout, however, take years to have its full impact felt.

The play is broken into two acts (with some sweet staging from director Emma Hooper Brooks, making great use of the seemingly limited SAW space).  Part one tells the tale of the fire itself and the event leading up to it.  A suffragette rally introduces us to factory worker Margaret Schwartz (Mina Delic), on whom considerable attention would later be paid.  The Triangle factory itself is owned by the decidedly imposing Blanck and Harris (Mike Showler and Dave Rowan), who lock doors and post guards to ensure no one even thinks about stealing a shirt here and there.  The result of these fairly illegal precautions is that, after a blaze sparks up, the trapped workers find themselves bottlenecked in an instant.  Following the horror through the eyes of the workers themselves (Jazmine Campanale, Tiffani Kenny, Alis Rainer, Katie King, Sonya Nagpal)and a reporter who acts as somewhat of a narrator (Dave Rowan again), we become witnesses as almost 150 girls are killed, either from the fire or by leaping to their deaths, inside half an hour.  It’s pretty nasty business, and the Reddies do good work with it.

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Part two deals with the trial that attempted to nail Blanck and Harris with the crime (zeroing in on the specific death of Margaret Schwartz), and feels a little tighter than act one. Opposing attorneys Dan DeMarbre and Jesse Palangio go back and forth, Palangio being especially good and slimy as he berates and harasses witnesses.  A long exchange between him and Margaret’s best friend is frustrating as Hell and wonderfully real.  Alex Brunjes and Alis Rainer also shine as Margaret’s grieving family.  There’s lots of good work from the gang in a pretty jam-packed piece, especially as they had to take on extra work at the last minute.  Good guy Will LaFrance was supposed to be in this show, but got sidetracked by scientific experimentation when he decided to see if he could stop a speeding car with his own body.  If any junior scientists are following along at home, the early result is NOT QUITE.  Get well soon, buddy!

TRIANGLE is a solid piece of important storytelling…a little lagging in some early parts, but worth the journey.  It plays until the 12th at the Saw Gallery, so give the Reddies some love!  Peace love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

  1. I think my evil scientist days are over before they began. But thanks for the good wishes, feeling better by the day!

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