Milk Like Sugar @ ArtsWest

March 7, 2017

Milk Like Sugar is a tour de force critique of the modern welfare state. It was vital for the reality of the creation of a permanent underworld of American society to be made tactile to an audience so far removed from the consideration of being impregnated for cash money from the sugar daddy Uncle Sam. Arguments, such as those found in ­­____ were taken inimically and not from a rational perspective. And so, pathos must be fought with pathos, and it is done so luminously, with such tremendous prose and character development, it an affirmation for why theatre exists – so such a story may be told and experienced.
Every wrinkle of the well-paced, amazingly technically crafted scenes which fit together to form a beautiful mosaic of despair, emphasizes a daily, sorrowful and more genuinely hopeless portion of society. It is no wonder that platitudes of equal opportunity fall on deaf ears on this class of American. The only opportunities they know of are crafting a track, maybe peddling some dope, or for the female of this society, getting knocked up. And so, a trio of teenage girls convince themselves that to achieve the quote finer things in life, one needs an income stream, and what is the most assured guarantee of income, on par with treasury bonds but with much richer yields, than welfare?
I cannot recall the welfare state so castigated, so unobtrusively, as with Milk Like Sugar. We have hints of it in Precious, but it does not materialize to such an apotheosis as with this dramatic. Precious deals with underclass drama too, and the realities of having a social worker integrated in the fabric of everyday life, yet it’s main dramatic point is a bit anomalous; incest is an outright strange manifestation; out of wedlock births, however, are an all too common phenomenon. And such a phenomenon is witnessed so pragmatically it helps any preconceived wishes of how welfare ought to be smack into the hard reality of its ugly implementation. Milk Like Sugar brings us down to the factory floor, to see the genesis of the manufacturing of tge cycle of poverty.
Isn’t it strange, after all, that millions of immigrants raised in harsher conditions than fried chicken on street corners, air conditioning, and copious hand-held electronics end up in two generations wealthier than the inner-city denizens? Being given such a sacred rite, American citizenship, which the millions hope to gain entry to even the possibility of citizenship via the Green Card, or the millions who bear their children on native soil for the very purpose of giving their children security and prosperity, the inner city citizenry squanders it prodigally. What is the very root of this squalor? Aren’t there those that see a way out?
Indeed there are. There are those who are intelligent enough to see a way out through the focus on studies; this is the legitimate upward steps to social mobility, taken by many in the middle class to higher echelons of labor; of moving into a labor pool where demand exceeds supply, thus enabling them to capture significant incomes. But they are few and far between, as in the general population it requires a serious perspective of the future, and acting in a rational manner, against the craggy spikes which can leave one enfeebled, such as teenage pregnancy or incarceration. It is here, through the penitentiary, that the dangerous side-winding climb up the social staircase which leads so many to fall. And in a general sense, it is this death knell which provides a ghoulish torment over the entire play.
This is precisely because we have a stark observation of the underclass being categorically matriarchal. Men are absent in the planning of society. It is women who spawn the next generation yet give them no provisions on how to lead a life. Thus through trial and error, as the girls themselves bear witness to, we have before the ripe earning years an already shipwrecked society. This is so tragically reminded with the character of [the Christian], who has to provide a pretentious façade of her wonderful family life only to confess to the protagonist in heart-wrenching and scene stealing manner by [actress name] that all she knows of the Bible is from the strict sermonizing by her father on Sundays while wearing an orange jumpsuit sitting across bullet-proof glass. It is this reality, which is not so much an affirmation and invocative of ebullience among those scornful of the welfare state such as myself, as is an affirmation of being persistent in its criticism. This is such a gentle, subtle, ultimately realistic portrayal of this society’s failure to move on up. And we have more moments of this indirect testimony of despair, with brilliantly scripted remarks on the lack of basic computer literacy which acts as a permanent barrier to even the most elementary of job occupations and the complete submission to nihilism leading to impregnation because help is never coming, and even the bizarrely sordid treatment of wealth in the case of overextending to buy a smart phone as a gift to impress friends.
All in all, this hits the audience with so many different phases of this world, only the most hardened of hearts could still be in denial about the ineptitude, at its best, of the involuntary administration of poverty benefits in society. Juxtaposed to traditional charity, where the charitable had power over who to support and who not to, there is now, five decades in, a blank check morality rewarded and promoted. Indeed, children who have their sights set on the stars are no more rewarded than those forming a pregnancy pact. Adopting a healthy disciplined diet is rewarded no more than gluttonous obesity. When all is equal, nothing has value. Milk like sugar is as good as the real thing.


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