Friday, May 20, 2011

Slaughter City (Jackalope Theatre)

"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. However, it has many interpretations but for me this evening. If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat."

-Lady Gaga

Like many of you, I’ve spent the better part of the 2010-2011 season combing my way through Target trying to find Lady Gaga’s new line of meat clothing. Shortly after the VMAs, I sniffed out rumors of the new line that led me from Macy’s to Banana Republic to the Cheesecake Factory. But the hunt always proved fruitless, and I’ve had to make do with Mossimo shirts stained with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce. I could not fathom what was delaying the launch of this sizzling new line.

Naomi Wallace’s Slaughter City, directed by Kaiser Ahmed and produced by Jackalope Theatre in the Raven Theatre’s West Stage, seeks to answer that burning question, “Where are my porterhouse PJs? And what does it take to get them?” We’ve known for some time that a line of meat clothing would have to be off-the-rack to be profitable, and Slaughter City offers us a glimpse into what the hell is clogging up the bacon bikini pipeline. It seems some people aren’t treated well by other people, and something needs to be done about it. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones,” said Lady Gaga. And apparently Naomi Wallace was listening, even though Slaughter City and Madonna’s Express Yourself came first.

The design elements are really strong – it took me a while to figure out that I was not in the secret meat sweatshop where Lady Gaga’s emperor’s clothes are made. At first glance, I thought that Eric and Andy had arranged a surprise Make-A-Wish party for me, but alas, it was an actual play, with acting and everything. The play centers on a group of delicious meatpackers (Kristin Anderson, Ryan Heindl, and Katherine Swan) and their malfeasant managers (Warren Feagins and John Milewski) and what happens when an ornery organ grinder and his mysterious monkey (Jack McCabe and AJ Ware) make a mess, leaving Irish Mary Poppins (Anne Sears) to clean it up, or at least explain it to us.

There were some tense, naughty scenes that made me think about tauntauns differently. I enjoyed the visceral use of the, well, viscera. And while the first act has chunks of gristle, the second act sizzles like fajitas. The more I watched, the more I became aware that Lady Gaga’s statements are utter tripe – that she IS a piece of meat to someone else, her body of work being cut up like a carcass and packaged into movable units, just like the rest of us. But what kind of accuracy can you expect from someone who judges themselves to be “the most judgment-free human being on the earth”? Or from a guy who desperately wanted a pair of sirloin slacks?

Ultimately, I have decided to abandon my search for Lady Gaga’s line of meat clothing. The near-perfect combo meal of American consumerism and pop activism had lost its lockjaw grip on me, thanks to the timely dissection made by the fine people of Jackalope Theatre Company. Thank Gaga her meat dress isn’t 4G and Flash-ready, or I’d be camped out at Best Buy, telling myself that factory workers don’t exist, or are at least un-American.

I’d like to thank the Saints for smiling at me demurely, and for showering me with Bacon Bits and glitter as I left the theatre.


-Mike Ooi

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