Jeannine Coulombe's "The Mill" immerses its audience in the powder-keg atmosphere of International Falls during a union riot in 1989. She ably demonstrates the looming presence of the sprawling paper mill in the lives of her characters as the deadline for a new contract approaches, while director Matt Sciple has assembled a strong ensemble to express the shifting perspectives of a cross-section of this working-class culture.
At the heart of the crisis is a family: 36-year mill veteran Marty, given a low-key, graceful performance by Terry Hempleman; his wife, Beth, given the protective ferocity of a mother tiger by Amy McDonald Morrison, and their son (Andy Rocco Kraft), a college student torn between conflicting loyalties. Around them swirl a variety of opposing voices, from friend Case, played with a powerfully simmering discontent by Eric Webster, a strike advocate, to Jodi Kellogg as a small business owner who pleads for compromise. The solid cast is rounded out by Katherine Moeller as Andy's girlfriend and James Rodriguez as an El Salvadoran refugee seeking a small piece of the American dream.
All in all, Workhaus' well-staged production offers an insightful glimpse into a facet of recent Minnesota history.