Inspired by Upton Sinclair’s disturbing 1906 book “The Jungle, ” about the inhumane working conditions in Chicago’s old abattoirs, and echoing the struggles of the Minnesota meatpacking workers from filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s 1990 Academy Award-winning documentary “American Dream,” “Slaughter City” is at heart a social drama about the physical and psychological oppressions of the working class. Thematically, Naomi Wallace’s play also touches upon issues including racism and queer politics, yet is most memorable for its strikingly original voice, a discordant but potent mix of naturalistic dialogue and visceral poetry that reflects the play’s emotional extremities between the hope and violence within a slaughterhouse. Unfortunately, despite their loud and energetic delivery, Ground Up Theatre’s cast is unable to strike an effective rhythm with the text, nor do they satisfactorily deliver some its more challenging passages. As such, the linguistic power and imagery of the writing registers only intermittently and ultimately robs the production of theatrical vibrancy. Director Sabrina Lloyd has incorporated a female chorus of three who sometimes wear children’s pig noses and plop themselves upon the stage like animals awaiting carnal annihilation, and other times stand in for the slabs of meat being dismembered. An original choice not dictated by the script, it drives home the play’s concern with gender inequalities and makes for some interesting stage pictures that seep within the brain. Nevertheless, the production lacks the raw urgency to make it register in the guts. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Steep Theatre, 3902 N. Sheridan Road, (773)944-0959. Thu-Sat 7:30pm/Sun 5pm. $10-$15. Through Dec 17.