By Marcina Zaccaria
“Feast,” a lavish spectacle produced as part of the Under the Radar Festival, is a light, fun play about decadence, excess, and the fall of Babylonia to the Persians.
As this new work by Andrew Ondrejcak begins, we are introduced to the story of Belshazzar, the ruler of Babylon. According to the Book of Daniel, Belshazzar invited his wives and concubines to a great feast before the collapse of the great empire of Babylon.
Mississippi born writer, director, and designer Director Andrew Ondrejcak directs a witty and lively production. He embraces a grand storytelling platform where characters thrive on decadence as they celebrate classical culture. The performances are delightfully whimsical. Each actor rattles on about how they perceive the feast. Their bodies sync in time, and their gestures are broad and reaching. Operatic music plays, as actors mouth the words of the music in the background.
Gorging on food is part of the nature of the struggle, but “Feast” is not just a rant about decadence, excess, and the necessity of a banquet. Throughout the celebratory meal, Ondrejcak creates characters that bring the audience toward empathy and understanding.
After two courses of the feast, the scene shifts to the Fishmonger. The Fishmonger, played by Peter Cullen, is a strong, solemn figure throughout the play. While chopping fish, he tenderly considers the work he has accomplished, and then bursts out in song. While others mouth the words to songs, his soulful, opera music seems to be sung live. The King, played by Reg E. Cathey, serves as a kind of formidable anchor for the production. He has a bold and resonant voice, and delivers long, classical speeches that feel at home at The Public Theater. Other striking actors include guests to the King. An Asian concubine (Yuki Kawahisa) is a sad, bulimic figure who deals with woes about food and her body. Her monologues are heartfelt, and she breaks the quick pace of the show to question how bacteria stay in her body during a long meal.
Gold costumes by Adam Selman contribute to the overall design for the show. Costume pieces include gold wigs with gelled hair, and fantastic dresses with mirror-like pieces that shimmer and glisten in the light. Selman’s design has previously been seen in W, Vogue, and Style.com. Wig design is by Enver Chakartash. Christina Watanabe’s lighting design is smart, spare, and complimentary. Kristin Worrall’s sound design utilizes magnification, and helps in raising the level of the occasion.
“Feast” is presented as part of the Under the Radar Festival. UTR is celebrating its 10th Season. Known for presenting groundbreaking avant-garde work, the Under the Radar Festival celebrates exciting, independent, and experimental theater. The festival spotlights some of the most dynamic artists working today.
“Feast” is playing until January 19th at The Public Theater, located at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets are available by visiting UndertheRadarFestival.com.