Credit: courtesy Cloudgate Theatre

With designer Angela McIlvain’s six-foot-long stuffed cow dangling from a
meat hook at center stage for almost the duration of the show, how bad
could this adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle from
Cloudgate Theatre possibly be? Stupefyingly bad, unfortunately, a dumpster
fire on stilts. Worst of all, it knows it. Less a play within a play than a
failed experiment complete with apology, Kristin Idaszak’s 90-minute
offering attempts to combine a dramatic rendition of “tech week” for a new
staged version of the novel, the hopeless unraveling of that production as
a shocking scene goes off the rails during rehearsal, and the otiose family
slide show that the play’s try-hard Writer (Ellenor Riley-Condit) evidently
threw together for opening night in lieu of her crapped-out play. The
result is a pitiable mess, which I can only hope was the point. Gregory
Geffrard has guts as the overmatched Stage Manager, but his mugging
throughout the night is inexcusable. This goes for everybody in the cast.

Woe is me. Woe is cow! I wanted more from her. She gets no lines. She
simply swings there, helpless, as gobbets of her badly misread novel of
origin go whizzing by. Why include her? Why adapt Sinclair at all, when-not
to discredit any amount of true experience that went into the raw trauma
exhibited here-the adulteration of his meatpackers into one-note archetypes
of patriarchal domination appears to be the goal? Rather an inauspicious
start for this new company.   v