Theater Review: LITTLE PEASANTS (Food Tank at The Burren Backroom in Somerville, MA)

Post image for Theater Review: LITTLE PEASANTS (Food Tank at The Burren Backroom in Somerville, MA)

by Lynne Weiss on February 8, 2024

in Theater-Boston


The workshop reading of Food Tank’s Little Peasants at The Burren Backroom, a venue known more for Irish, Bluegrass, Appalachian, Roots, Jazz, and Blues than theater, is all the more engrossing for being rough around the edges. With a tight script by Bernard Pollack, dramaturgy and production by Elena Morris, and the excellent Boston-based performers present a believable and compelling glimpse behind the scenes of a union-organizing drive within the fictional Unicorn Coffee company (modeled on Starbucks). My companion for the evening, a long-time union organizer and activist, was impressed with the accuracy of the script and was amused that some characters had been named after illustrious figures within the union movement.

Christa Brown and Rob Cope are both wonderful as Monique and Craig, the would-be union-busters who spied, lied, threatened, and manipulated workers grappling over whether to vote yes or no on the question of forming a union. Of course, everyone wants better pay and benefits — but what if a successful union drive leads to the place where you’re working shutting down completely? Yes, there appeared to be moments when pages from Brown’s script had gone missing and she had to consult Cope’s reading stand, but she managed to pull that off without a glitch in her performance.

Ciera-Sadé Wade and Lorraine Victoria Kanyike bring clarity and passion to the difficulties faced by baristas. Ashley is a single mom who values her job because of its proximity to her children’s school. Feisty Molly is a part-time community college student who doesn’t own a car. The fact that she can get from campus to her coffee shop job by bus is huge. Both characters face moments of crisis and indecision; both emerge all the more heroic and admirable because of those challenges. Jake Mouchawar is funny and endearing as the somewhat feckless Michael, motivated as much by his crush on union organizer Ella as by any real commitment to workers’ rights. As Ella, Autumn Blazon-Brown manages to inspire both her comrades and the audience, even in the face of potentially embarrassing revelations.

How does it end? You’ll have to see it, because this is a performance in which the audience determines the outcome. Admittedly, given these convincing performances. it is hard to imagine that viewers at the next performance, February 21, would vote differently from the way we did last night, February 7, but you never know.

Food Tank, which produced the play, is a research and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to building a more sustainable food system. Food Tank’s previous production, We Came to Dance, focused on the climate crisis. It had a one-month sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was praised by praised by The New York Times and other media. A one-act version of Little Peasants was presented at SXSW in 2023. Director Dori A. Robinson brought this expanded version to life, and I suspect that many who see this will be eager for a fully staged production — or for that matter, whatever Food Tank tackles next.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley making stirring opening remarks

photos by Stephen Duarte

Little Peasants
Food Tank
The Burren Backroom, 247 Elm Street in Somerville, MA
next performance Wednesday, February 21, 2024 at 7 (doors 5:30)
90 minutes, no intermission
for tickets ($15 advance, $20 door) visit 24 Hour Concerts
for more info, visit Food Tank

Leave a Comment