The director and adaptor of Oracle Theatre’s The Jungle, Matt Foss, writes in the director’s notes about Upton Sinclair’s disappointment that his book “led to sweeping pure-food laws, rather than to changes in the living and working conditions of America’s workers.” In comparison, Foss’s adaptation focuses tightly on the workers, creating the most disturbing, powerful, impactful piece of theatre I have seen all year.
In The Jungle, brutality and corruption reign supreme, particularly over the poor and unwary. While unions remain a shadowy specter around the edges of the play, the gains they have made are starkly obvious against the nigh impossible working conditions in the play. The Jungle follows a small group of Lithuanian immigrants who arrive in Chicago in the early 1900s, knowing no English beyond the city’s name. They have minimal savings and a friend who owns a delicatessen – very modest beginnings, but by the end of the play, their starting point seems unreachably high. Continue reading