Think of Kimberly Guilfoyle at the Republican Convention or a pre-insurrection rally—and multiply that fervor exponentially…
With her blue eyes bulging and her body moving to an attacking lioness pose, Maxine delivers a soliloquy rant about the humiliations of being docked for staying in the rest room one minute more than is allowed. She and her co-workers slave away their days in a big box store, and this is one of many rules and regulations that choke the life out of them. Next time, Maxine warns, she will just pee on the floor in front of all the customers with every detail of her genitalia in view.
Played by Michaela Petro, this Maxine quakes with the seemingly bottomless rage of a mother of four stuck in a dead end job. Her co-workers include a retiree forced back into work because she can’t make ends meet, a would-be rapper who lusts for rock star fame but seems to lack talent, and the newest arrival, Emmie, a Black woman with one year of college who is thrilled to land this second job at $5/hour.
Their boss—whom you too might immediately think of as their slave overseer—is Gar, a Black man and martinet who rose from their ranks to make a few dollars more per hour. The white workers loathe him as the personification of the abusive corporation that hires and fires them, often mistakenly tallying the pay that is their due, ever keeping them on the edge of the edge of survival. Emmie, though, sees Gar both as the one who gave her a big break by hiring her and also--as we come to fully appreciate as the story unfolds-- through the lens of a fellow Black person in all white Vermont. Do a quick Google and you get how rare that similarity is—with Vermont’s Black population today--let alone 20 years ago when this play is set-- logging in at little more than one percent.
Like Emmie, the newest hire, we are on a quick course to learn how to survive in the stranglehold of the Big Box Store routine.
Multi-layered Tells it Like It Is
We see the world through the eyes of these characters. They know there is a pointlessness in their labor to pack, unpack and repack merchandise a.k.a. proto-landfill. They think the older generation of factory workers who got a week’s vacation every year and even medical insurance just don’t get how dead the dead end came to be. When Emmie says to Maxine, “You’re mean”, Maxine retorts “I’m real”. When they think of other job options, they have to factor in their ability to stomach being in the midst of rich people who don’t have a clue. “Don’t get stuck” is the mantra of the elder worker Wendy, driving home just how stuck everyone already is.
Steep Theatre is Back!
In this reviewer’s opinion, Eboni Booth’s script brilliance seems to start even with the play’s name. No, this is not the world’s most cosmopolitan city of culture—the City of Lights. This is Paris, Vermont, and the world is dark and hopeless.
Expect a perfect non-end to the story, in this writer’s view. It’s as though Steep Theatre--now in its new home down the block from the old-- is shouting, “Hey, we’re Steep Theatre! Did you really expect a tie-it-up-in-a-bow Hollywood ending?”
Thanks Steep—and welcome back.
Norm Woodel (voiceover)
Director – Jonathan Barry
Stage Manager – Jennifer Aparicio
Costume Designer – Alexia Rutherford
Lighting Designers – Heather Gilbert & Conchita Avitia
Sound Designer – Daniel Etti-Williams
Props Designer - Carol-Delaney Gibson
Scenic Consultant – Eleanor Kahn
Intimacy Choreographer - Tristin Hall
Production Manager – Julie Siple
Production Electrician – Mark Brown
Technical Director – Evan Sposato
Assistant Director –Lisa Troi Thomas
Assistant Stage Managers – Ender Collins & Andrea Enger
Makeup Assistant - Liz Sharpe
Casting Director – Lucy Carapetyan
Photographer - Randall Starr
June 17 – July 23, 2022
Sundays - 3pm
Thursdays - 7:30pm
Fridays - 7:30pm
Saturdays - 7:30pm
1044 West Berwyn
Chicago, Illinois, 60640
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.