Workers take over in Mime Troupe show
By: Jean Schiffman
Special to The Examiner
July 7, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Mime Troupe knows whereof it speaks in creating a play about worker-owned businesses — the troupe itself has been soldiering along as a collective since 1970.
Of course, a worker-owned theater is not the same as a worker-owned garment factory or textile mill, the two businesses depicted in this summer’s serious-minded spoof — an impassioned declaration, by one character, to the effect that workers in fact love their sewing machines is a bit hyperbolic.
In “Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker,” which opened last weekend at Dolores Park in The City, factory owner Ernesto (a hilariously simpering Rotimi Agbabiaka) decides to close Peaceweavers, which manufactures “New Age urban hempwear,” and reopen it in Tibet, where he can pay workers 62 cents an hour.
“It’s the global economy, and the sooner we all accept it the better,” Ernesto says.
A fourth worker (Brian M. Rivera) is rehired as Ernesto’s security guard when it looks like the workers, incited by Joe, are about to stage a protest.
It turns out that one of the seamstresses, the pregnant Sofia (Lisa Hori-Garcia), has been through all this before, back home. Workers in Posibilidad, a barrio in Buenos Aires, took over the mill when it was about to close, with tragic but ultimately triumphant results. (Apparently, some of this is based on true stories.)
Inspired, the Dreamweavers crew agrees that they know how to do everything in the factory except get paid too much and steal from the workers.
Writer Michael Gene Sullivan (who portrays Joe, with deep feeling) interweaves the tales of these two worker-seized factories, with Sofia as the central figure in both.
A connecting theme is the Spanish-language soap opera that the American workers watch on their breaks. It’s elegantly actualized by Maggie Mason and Agbabiaka, who tango their way through a comically star-crossed romance decked out in Emilica Sun Beahm’s colorful costumes.
Wilma Bonet directs with a sure hand; music director Pat Moran provides the original, Latin-infused songs and score; and the cast, which includes the dynamic Velina Brown, excels in multiple roles.
If the troupe’s thesis is an earnest oversimplification of a complex economic problem, “Posibilidad” is nevertheless pointed and funny, right down to the rousing finale: “This is our struggle, this is our time!”