Organic Theater's new production, Scarcity, is an intense story of poverty and domestic abuse where no character is left with any shred of dignity. You will not smile during the show, or on the drive home, or for a while after you return. This play by Lucy Thurber is, however, successful in everything it sets out to do.
There is much in Scarcity for a prurient audience. It depicts a brutal setting where a father compliments his daughter's ass before her mother hits her, and the only person with any chance at upward mobility is the object of his own teacher's sexual advances. This is a domestic drama that requires a fight choreographer.
The set design is impeccable in its depiction of the stereotypes of low-income squalor, and even the lighting makes everything look soaked in tobacco. No doubt if the production were any more heartfelt, the actors would be tripping over empty beer bottles every other line.
The cast, as directed by Justin Zeno, is completely convincing in their roles — even when beating children or sexually assaulting people. Tense silences are so thick they congeal around you. Infrequent comic relief is provided by Bridget Cary's Gloria, a childless woman who desperately seeks class mobility.
At first glance, Scarcity seems to subscribe to the Dickensian idea that the poor remain poor because they cannot stop drinking, fighting and sexually assaulting one another for long enough to better themselves; they can be elevated only when wealthy philanthropists adopt pure-hearted orphans. This reading has one kink: Old Money's sole representative is a teacher played by Meagan Reagle. She lusts after students, humiliates a family in its own home, and literally cackles upon learning her star pupil's family income.
This perspective leaves us in a deeply pessimistic and misanthropic world with no future for the young prodigy Rachel, played by 15-year-old Hannah McGee, who is a major character in four other plays by Thurber.
Thurber is an acclaimed young playwright, but come to see Scarcity only if you have a strong stomach and want to see actors at the peak of their craft portraying awful people.