At the dinner party, we see the guests: unhappy in their contemporary first-world comfort, distracted by the basic needs of sex and food. The Butler (Pavi Proczko) understands our struggles. By the end, he’s drinking from the bottle and watching the natural (dis)order of things take over.
Wine flows freely. The Butler is understanding. Given the guests how couldn’t he be? Wendy (Alejandra Vivanco) and Francis (Ricky Quintana) are breaking bread with the sexually disappointed and pharmaceutically maintained Sam (Shelby Garrett), her husband, Rhett (Carl Wisniewski), the saddest bougie bastard alive, and Xander (Henry Greenberg), the scientist, hipster and newspaper aficionado.
But Francis is stuck in surgery and nobody wants to eat with a host conspicuously absent. The unpleasantries percolate in this meatless land where vegetables are under-appreciated and hunger takes precedent over empathy.
The vocabulary is well-established at the beginning. This is a play of scenic non-sequiturs and extreme collage. The diners are despicable, cold and self-righteous in their pain. They’re not meant to be real people, just grotesquely painted portraits. The cast does their work: there’s not a single character I liked (except audience surrogate Proczko). Watching them descend the food chain is satisfying though maybe it should lean toward “horrifying.”
The distance between the audience and the action is sometimes too great. With cartoon characters, we don’t see ourselves, allowing us to excuse our own excess. In “The Feast” we can laugh off our gluttony and our greed, which can make this play a dangerous sedative. Aside from that, sometimes the action onstage and “the point” are difficult to unwind. Combined with distance, this creates for lulls of boredom.
Lack of clarity aside, “The Feast” addresses the vulnerable points of nihilistic elites and fatalistic millennials. Cold solipsism and capitalistic cynicism guide the fears here. Led by nobody in particular, the cast runs forward into the darkness of hunger and our need to sate it. Though the laws of the jungle rule, everybody’s searching for something to fill them. (Jay Van Ort)
Red Theater Chicago at the Den Theater, 1333 North Milwaukee, redtheater.org, Free. Through October 15.