“American Mill #2” at La MaMa (Closed June 27, 2016)

June 25, 2015 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written by Abby Felder
Directed by Gian Marco Lo Forte
Reviewed by Sander Gusinow
Theatre Reviews Limited

Based on the experience of child textile workers in industrial-era United States, Pioneers Go East Collective’s American Mill #2 is about as by-the-book as a postmodern theatre piece can be. Multimedia, song and movement, found text, and an ephemeral premise touch on all the conventions to which we’ve grown accustomed. PGEC shows their youth in American Mill #2 ; some of these tropes work well for the piece, others are extemporaneous, but who can fault their passion.

For an audience that’s heard the horror stories of sweatshops overseas, the impact is never quite as jarring as it could be. The torment of the play come less from the suffering of the children, and more from the shrieks and maniacal cackling of the ensemble. Those waiting to hear the tragic tales of these children will be disappointed, as the spectacle recreates the vigor of the textile machines, rather than the pain of sweatshop labor.

What shines through the production is the direction of Gian Marco Lo Forte. Lo Forte elegantly arranges the choppy segments into an effervescent daisey chain of chaos and calm. His most intriguing segment involves a childlike wooden doll, which dreamily bounds across a burlap road before falling headlong into a textile mill. Although we’ve all seen dolls before, Lo Forte provides a unique and somber spin on a performance element we’ve all seen before.

The company succeeds in suggesting factory chaos while embodying the mental hollowness of empty, repetitive labor. Beauty and boredom are the linchpins of American Mill #2, and although PGEC has a lot of room to grow, they’re an eager young company with plenty of time to do so. With Lo Forte at the helm, I’m interested to see what they come up with next.