The Sanitation Chronicles, billed as a "slice of life" play, is meant to inform and educate "the upper classes" on the humanity of garbage men (and apparently the prostitutes that hang around them). This lesson is presented as a series of monologues strung together in a disjointed fashion, recounting the characters past experiences and what led to their present occupations. I don't know about you, but I can honestly say I never really looked down on garbage men before, as the play so hastily assumes. I wouldn't want to do it, but someone has to and quite frankly I'm glad there are people who are willing. Prostitution, on the other hand, well that's another story and I think its a mistake to draw any likeness between the two. Unfortunately, that's not the only misstep of the evening.
Accompanied by slow pacing and a lack of action, the large cast of actors struggle to remember their lines and engage the audience. If only they had more to work with. The stories they recount are mostly intriguing in and of themselves. However, the convention- spotlit talking heads who stare dreamily at the audience, while everyone else on stage stands frozen- grows tiresome after a mere 20 minutes. So you can imagine the monotony after 90 minutes. By the time the end rolls around and something finally happens, you can't help but feel hollow. Its such a last ditch effort to tug at the heartstrings. Structure aside, there are some good things here.
Whoever was responsible for the actors appearance- there was no credited costume designer- did a good job effectively portraying the visage of garbage collectors. The cast was noticeably unkempt. Their clothing was stained, their hair grimy and unwashed, faces unshaven and teeth missing. You could almost see the dirt under their nails. It was a far cry from the pretty, polished faces we're used to seeing onstage and onscreen. The set design, which was credited, to Chad Brinkman, was also detailed and authentic. The thought that went into these areas was evident and important, especially when the audience is so close to the stage as was the case here.
Though a noteworthy effort, The Sanitation Chronicles could benefit from some rewrites and further workshops. There are moments that shine but they are too few and far between. I would love to see this work developed further; its always refreshing to come across a play that explores a different subject matter than you find in a typical night of theater.
THE SANITATION CHRONICLES
through Sunday, April 29:
Wednesday-Friday at 8pm
Saturday at 3pm and 8 pm
Sunday at 7pm
Tickets are $15 ($10 for sanitation workers)
Available online at http://www.smarttix.com/show
or Smarttix at 212-868-4444.