Ah, pollution

By By Lisa Anderson

By Lisa Anderson

Tucked into a tiny side theater at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Plan-B’s staging of “Miasma” is up-close and personal.

The play was originally developed two years ago for Plan-B’s SLAM-a theater festival in which playwrights are given a title and a cast list and only one night to write a 10-minute play, which will then be rehearsed and put on stage at the end of the 24-hour period.

Eric Samuelsen was given the title “The Butcher, the Beggar and the Bedtime Buddy,” which led his thoughts to a book he had recently read-Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation-and his idea began to grow. After the SLAM festival, he put the short away and didn’t consider expanding it until Plan-B’s producing director, Jerry Rapier, asked whether he planned to. He further researched it, added a couple characters and completed the script.

“Miasma” is a timely release, as it directly addresses the injustices of immigrant labor. It centers on Ben, a rancher with a vision to raise cattle for slaughter and build a meat-processing factory. He builds his empire without regard to the will of his wife and sends her into a downward spiral, which eventually leads her away from him. She is replaced by a greedy woman with big ideas of her own-harvesting the methane created by the cattle’s waste.

April Fossen plays Ben’s oldest daughter, Claire, at several different ages. She skillfully guides us through her family’s struggles over money and power.

Christina Thurmond took on the thorny task of playing the roles of three women. She nailed the nasty, gold-digging step-mother persona and captured the essence of the religiously kooked-out first wife, but her attempt at showing Claire’s sister, Beth, was a little garish.

The action is spread over a lifetime, and we are able to see the progression of a gay man’s fear of exposure and the way this changes his relationship with his blackmailing employer.

“Miasma” explores how the realization of a vision can effectively destroy everything in its wake. Constant references to the smell of death permeating the town-and the smell of manure layered beneath-is brought to the audience without the olfactory irritation: The characters are all dressed in shades of brown. This makes it easy to imagine they are drenched in the smells of dying cattle.

With such hot topics as homosexuality, illegal drugs and illegal immigrants, this play ought to generate plenty of discussion-just make sure to wait until the final bow.

“Miasma” runs Sept. 8 through 24 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre. For tickets, contact the Rose Wagner Box Office: (801) 355-2787 or visit www.arttix.com.

The cast of “Miasma” argues energetically.