“Scab” is a searing indictment of modern business

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John Anthony Torres and Monica Wyche wearing construction gear
John Anthony Torres and Monica Wyche. Photo by Mike Peters

Scab is a strong, powerful production at Premiere Stages in Union

John Anthony Torres and Monica Wyche wearing construction gear
John Anthony Torres and Monica Wyche.
Photo by Mike Peters.

Premiere Stages at Kean University in Union presents a searing report on some of the consequences of outsourcing with Scab, a taut two-character play. Originally planned for the 2020 season, Scab paints a brutal picture of the failure of unions in the 21st Century through the interaction of two factory workers.

It’s 2018, and we’re in a factory in the northeast. Gilda (Monica Wyche) has been working there for the past 20 years on the factory floor as a manager’s assistant. She has been a staunch union member her entire life and now finds herself training Eduardo (John Anthony Torres), a young Mexican who will be taking over her job when the factory is moved to his country. Her resigned resentment is exacerbated by having to train her successor, which leads people she’s known all her life to shun her as a scab, the term for a traitor to the union.

She has only one week to train Eduardo in the complexities of her job, with the promise of a $10,000 payout if she succeeds. Eduardo furiously takes notes not only about a job he badly needs to support his family but also about the complexities of English slang. Resentments and disappointments on both sides lead to a searing climax — and a final gesture of pride in relinquishing a career.

Playwright Gino Diiorio has created a strongly reality-grounded play with which many will feel a connection. Yet it is not without flashes of humor, especially in a scene where Gilda recalls being taken to a Springsteen concert by her daughter. Her sharp insights are funny and true — and definitely, hilariously original.

Diiorio’s play is brilliantly brought to life by Wyche and Torres under the sharply-paced direction of John J. Wooten. The set, designed by Bethanie Wampol Watson and lit by Zack Gage, is a drably colored factory interior where the aging, dangerous machinery seems to have a life of its own, with flashing lights, howling sirens, and the noises of production. 

Scab is a truly magnificent play. Slow at the start, it paces itself until, little by little, the audience is drawn into the conflicts, internal and external, of Gilda and Eduardo. You hope for the best for both of them even though you know that is practically an impossibility. Scab is strong and powerful. Those looking for a well-written, well-acted, well-directed, and well-presented show must see it before its all-too-limited run is over. I cannot more strongly recommend making the trip to Kean University in Union to see Scab.

Scab is presented by Premiere Stages at the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center on the Kean University campus in Union until September 25th. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to premierestagesatkean.com or call 908-737-7469. The university strongly encourages but does not mandate the wearing of masks inside the building.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first live play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. He works in the box office at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.