by: JK Clarke
Experiencing a break from reality as a manifestation of mental illness must be terrifying. By definition, one doesn’t know that it’s occurring, only that people are treating you oddly, asking if you’re okay, and giving you wide-eyed looks. To the victim, things generally seem okay. Sure, weird things are happening, but that’s life: sometimes weird things happen. But not like some of the things that are happening to Matt in Cory Finley’s The Feast, now in its world premiere at The Flea Theater.
Matt (played as an easy-going painter by Matt Dolido), doesn’t know why the plumber has shown up. As far as he’s concerned, the toilet is fine, just making a few grumbling noises. But it’s a metaphor for his relationship with Anna (a pert and corporate Marlowe Holden), for he doesn’t know that it’s as clogged and fetid as his commode. It is she who has called the plumber, for she has heeded his remarks that the sewer has been moaning, almost as if trying to speak. That’s not good, since sewers don’t make noises like that. So, hoping that something is really wrong, a plumber is summoned. Yet, all on that front appears to be in working order. Thus begins Matt’s journey down the sewer hole. Though it’s filled with filth and slime—yet another callback to his relationship—there are beings there, summoning him below, asking him to join them for a grand feast.
Though the play’s approach to the allegory is subtle enough, it feels, at times, like it’s a long way to go to deliver a message. More compelling is Matt’s interactions with others, particularly his alarmed therapist who finally realizes, when the session is over, that Matt may be having an entirely separate conversation with someone who isn’t there. When we see him on his own, he seems perfectly reasonable, level and sane. The fact that he is most definitely not sane is where the horror lies in this tale. And the journey toward a potential recovery provides us with a good deal of relief.
The Flea has a knack for turning out well-acted plays that examine characters’ inner spirits in unique ways. The Feast, like last summer’s Smoke, is a thinker. Though appropriately short (65 minutes) it has the fullness of a two-act play. Director Courtney Ulrich has assembled a strong cast (including Donaldo Prescod who plays multiple roles quite distinctly), on a pleasantly realistic set (of an artist’s somewhat beatnik, ramshackle apartment) by Andrew Diaz. It’s the right kind of play to see if one wants to see decent theater, but doesn’t feel like committing many hours.
The Feast. Through April 5 at The Flea Theater (41 White Street between Church and Broadway). www.theflea.org