Chicago worships its food, from the temples of fine dining to the red-cooler bar tamales. Every resident has food woven inextricably into their life story, whether it’s joyful, nostalgic, tragic or a mix of all three. In a revival of their 2010 show “Feast,” Albany Park Theater Project presents a handful of these stories through a series of different lenses.
The references in “Feast” speak convincingly to their Chicago setting (a zabiha halal butcher on Kedzie and Leland, the Aldi/Jewel class divide). But the themes at play—satisfaction, ritual, heartbreak and catharsis—are universal and resonant. That a troupe of teenaged actors can capture some of them so effectively is a tremendous achievement. Actor Kito Espino convincingly proclaims his love of butchery and his deep sense of loss for a Beirut torn asunder by civil war, and only afterward do you realize that he’s still not old enough to vote.
“Feast” offers flavors both sweet (a really adorable series of interstitials with Carlos Desantiago and Kiara Lyn Manriquez as two children who bond over sweets) and bitter (a bracingly feminist and surprisingly scathing indictment of food as a method of control over women, delivered by a handful of actresses dressed as traditional dolls of varied ethnicity). But the real achievement is in the sense of balance.
That balance is present even in a segment on food assistance: Where one young actor flits about the stage on Link Card day, ecstatically running down a grocery list of food items, another sips coffee and rages about the heartlessness of aid office workers. Being on food stamps sucks, the segment says, but even then, people can adapt and create their own happy memories.
The choices of storytelling vehicles—song, monologue, dance and a tremendous remix of all three with two paleta carts, food-sign scaffolding and full-on foley work—keeps the show varied and propulsive. The staging in the round fits the material so well it’s hard to imagine that “Feast” was ever produced any other way.
Like the best food experiences in Chicago, “Feast” is recommended without reservations. (John Carruthers)
Albany Park Theater Project at the Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn, (312)443-3800, GoodmanTheatre.org. $10-$40. Through August 16.