Written & directed by Alexander Zeldin.
Produced by Lookingglass Theatre
In association with Dark Harbor Stories.
At Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago.
Tediously boring glimpse into the horrors of some temp cleaning crews.
I usually attend the press opening at Lookingglass Theatre and most major Chicago troupes but due to unforeseen circumstances, I attended a Saturday matinee of Beyond Caring. It was a eye-opener for me. Beyond Caring is a naturalistic drama about the plight of temp cleaning crews working for low wages in horrible conditions without benefits in an American factory. Barely surviving and working extremely hard–we see the four mopping floors, scrubbing walls and cleaning manufacturing machines. They barely have proper cleaning equipment, no insurance and no health benefits. They work late night hours with short breaks. This is a gritty portrait of exploited workers.
We empathize with their plight as we watch them cleaning the austere set at Lookingglass Theatre. J. Nicole Brooks, as Tracy, Edwin Lee Gibson as Phil, Caren Blackmore as Ebony Grace, and Wendy Mateo as Sonia are the crew with Keith D. Gallagher as Ian, their white supervisor. Sonia is Latina with Ebony-Grace, Phil and Tracy being African-American.
Over the course of 90 excruciatingly long minutes, we watch the four clean and clean and clean then take their breaks. Phil reads Dick Francis novels, Ebony-Grace goes out for a smoke, Tracy takes a nap while Sonia hoards food. Ian is the boss who can be heartless as he pushes the crew to clean better and faster.
There is little dialogue and barely any backstory here as we watch the crew clean. This becomes tedious then boring as the cleaning and the long quiet actionless periods drone on. At 90 minutes this show wears out its welcome. We get it that these poor souls are being repressed and exploited but this show wears us out. I have not seen an audience as restless as this one as many folks started fidgetting in their seats as their boredom prevailed. Also, as the seating was arranged for this show, the section with seats numbering over #30 could not see what was happening by the stage-left doorway or by the coffee machine. There is a tasteless sex scene that those in the #30’s section couldn’t see.
I got what the playwright was trying to dramatize but he could have cut some of the redundant scenes and the long silent moments. Less can be more. Why bore your audience? At the show’s end several audience members expressed their dislike of the work. Tedium seemed to win the day. This show would have worked better with more story, more character development in a faster-paced presentation. We get the message, just don’t bore us to death.
Date Reviewed: April 8 at 2 pm.
For more info checkout the beyond Caring page at theatreinchicago.com.
At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, call 312-337-0665, www.lookingglasstheatre.org, tickets $40 – $75, We, at 7:30 pm, Thurs at 2 & 7:30 pm, Fri. at 7:30 pm, sat. at 2 & 7:30 pm, Sun. at 2 & 7:30 pm, running time is 90 minutes without an intermission, through May 7, 2017.