A CurtainUp Review
Intent on getting employment that will pay well, she interviews for a job at the local slaughterhouse. She immediately gets hired to work on the "kill floor" and soon learns the brutal business of slaughtering cows for the marketplace. Her 15 year-old son B (his real name is Brendan) is a socially-conscious vegan and utterly revolted by the fact that his mom now kills cows for a living. Rather than spend time with her, he hangs out with a young rapper named Simon, and eventually becomes sexually involved with him.
Andy deals with her son's cruel rebuffs by putting her whole energies into her work and coping with the grisly reality of the kill floor. Rick, her boss offers a chance at an office job This is precisely what Andy doesn't just desire but needs as she often gets nauseous at work, and has nightmares about the kill floor. But her relationship with the boss makes this as much a problem as opportunity.
Kill Floor is an intriguing debut for Koogler. It progresses much like a fugue with the parallel plots of B and Simon's relationship playing out in counterpoint to Andy and Rick's. There's some nice wordplay on alphabetic names too. Case in point: B reveals his deep-seated need to connect with others by riffing on and on about his pet goldfish C (as in deep blue sea). But it is what is not said here that truly matters.
Marin Ireland is riveting as the gutsy protagonist. She inhabits Andy with the toughness of an ex-con as well as the tenderness of a mother longing for her teen-aged son's affection. But, while Ireland is the main draw, there's some mighty fine acting here by the rest of the cast.
Danny McCarthy, has the unenviable part of playing Andy's boss Rick. McCarthy nails this difficult part by making his manager-character a vulnerable human being with foibles. Nicholas L. Ashe, as Andy's son B, exudes the know-it-allness of a teen-ager who really doesn't know it all. Samuel H. Levine, as B's rapper friend Simon and Natalie Gold, as Andy's well-to-do neighbor Sarah round out the ensemble.
Daniel Zimmerman's multiple sets are spot on. Whether it's the slaughterhouse facility, the Dairy Queen restaurant or Andy's apartment, Zimmerman gives them a convincing Spartan decor. Ben Stanton's lighting is fittingly glaring. Jessica Pabst's costumes are a motley mix of slaughterhouse uniforms and (blood-spattered) aprons, as well as ordinary t-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and parkers. Brandon Wolcott's rumbling sound effects allow you to imagine the horrors of the kill floor off stage, and can send chills down your spine.
The theme of violence is writ large but isn’t fully integrated into the play. True, there's a lot of attention given to Andy's killing and skinning of cows. But when it comes to a really cogent reflection on the horrors of the slaughterhouse (and the stigmatizing of its workforce) Koogler seems to have nodded. Also, the play's violent ending is too abrupt. It's a breath-taking finale that thrusts Andy and B together, and it carries powerful symbolism — and irony. But I am not sure that he's teased the scene out enough.
As adroitly directed by Lila Neugebauer, Kill Floor does offer food for thought and the chance to see the always outstanding Marin Ireland. If you go, count on it changing the way you look at the all-American burger.