To The Bone is a play not to be missed. There is just no other way to say that. This play is a reminder of why we go to the theatre. Not so much the theatre uptown where the lights are bright – although that has its moments. I’m talking about the theatre where you sit in a tiny space with actors 3 feet away from you and are transported. As the play completes its tale you find yourself in your seat and surprised that you have to stand up and go out into the world. That is how deeply this play cuts – to the bone, if I may borrow a phrase.
When I graduated form college I moved into a three family house in Putnam, Connecticut with a children’s theatre company, The Storymimers. Putnam was an old mill town that had seen better days. We all took odd jobs to supplement our income. A few of us went to work in a chicken farm where they plucked dead chickens for 8 hours a day. They were paid in a few dollars and a lot of eggs. It was grubby, degrading work, and when they came home they went directly into a shower. They didn’t talk much about their work. It was too depressing.
Next on the line for these dead chickens would have been a processing plant like the one that Olga (Lisa Ramirez), Reina (Annie Henk) and Juana (Liza Fernandez) work. Olga has the only green card among them as well as a load of anger enough for a small village. Reina and Juana are undocumented, and as such are at the mercy of their not so very nice boss Daryl (Haynes Thigpen). While Olga is willing to take Daryl on over any infraction (morning break being cancelled for instance) the rest, including Olga’s daughter Lupe (Paola Lazaro-Muñoz) know there are other ways to deal with the crap life is shoveling at them.
Soon they are joined by Carmen (Xochitl Romero) who is one of the fortunate ones to make it all the way from Honduras – the worse for wear. She is welcomed into the women’s circle and soon breaks the heart of their loyal taxi driver (no one else owns a car here) Jorge, (Dan Domingues). She also becomes the center of unwanted attention for Daryl, with consequences that are staggering.
Every day is a monotonous drill of powerlessness and fear. They wages are sub-human, the work is debilitating, and the treatment demeaning.
This is the story of how you get that lovely skinless chicken breast delivered to your plate. It is not a happy journey. Not only are most of the chickens treated poorly, the humans who make up the workforce are as well.
But Ms. Ramirez is not without light and hope in her story-telling. To the degree to which she pulls us into the rage and despair of these characters, she also lifts us up into the astonishing joy and resilience of these women. Beat us up all you want, they seem to say. We will never forget hope.
And thus neither do we.
While there are some logic tweaks and blocking adjustments (the play is mostly blocked for the center section of the audience) that would clarify the story and our viewing, this play hits you in places you had forgotten about. It pulls you up out of complacency into caring when you had no intention of doing such a thing.
This play deserves a future production.
Brava all around. Drinks on me.
TO THE BONE – By Lisa Ramirez, Directed by Lisa Peterson
WITH – Lisa Ramirez, Annie Henk, Liza Fernandez, Paola Lazaro-Munoz, Xochitl Romero, Dan Domingues, Gerardo Rodriguez and Haynes Thigpen.
Scenic design is by Rachel Hauck, lighting design by Russell Champa, costume design by Theresa Squire, sound design by Jill Du Boff. Morgan Jenness is dramaturg, Terri Kohler is stage manager and Theresa Von Klug is general manager.
Produced by the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce St. in Greenwich Village) under the direction of Angelina Fiordellisi; TO THE BONE will perform Mondays through Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through October 4. Tickets range in price from $40 to $10.
Tickets are also available at www.cherrylanetheatre.org or through Ovationtix.com 866-811-4111.