Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Food Chain"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"The Food Chain"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at MMAS is The New England Repertory Company's "The Food Chain" by Nicky Silver, a dark and bitingly funny look into the dysfunctional lives of five Manhattan dwellers. It is a two act farce in three different scenes. Social satire meets absurdist comedy in this hilarious show that centers on the actions of Amanda. She is a self-absorbed, neurotic and anorexic poet who calls a suicide hotline after her closed-mouthed, brooding film writer husband, Ford leaves her saying he needs "time to work". Amanda reaches Bea, a wacky volunteer at the crisis hotline who instead of offering comfort, complains about her own life and gives Amanda hilariously useless advice. Meanwhile, a few blocks away is Serge Stubin, a narcissistic runway model being tormented by a one-time lover, Otto, his food ''junkie'' stalker who can't seem to accept Serge's rejection. All five of these character's lives somehow come together in the end in a riotous web of laughter. In describing his play, Silver wrote, "It's like there are two happy people in every high school-the head cheerleader and the football quarterback, and the rest of us just sit on the sidelines picking our noses and eating." This show is an award winning comedy about the emotional food chain we have structured in today's society of instant gratification and obsession with appearances. It skewers America's preoccupation with beauty, sex, food and fashion. Director Mike Kiernan picks five splendid performers to play these wild and crazy roles, creating a laugh riot from start to finish. What a wonderful way to brighten up these dark and dreary frigid days of February.

Mike blocks the show beautifully. He is aided in his task by Channel 5 Boston Television's Emmy Award winning set designer, Ted Talanian. He designed two different sets including Amanda's gorgeous apartment near Times Square and Serge's dumpy loft which is on a story-board setting which wins applause at the scene change in Act 2. Ken Butler constructed the sets while Glenn Fournier supplied the artistic detailing to both of them with realistic results. Lighting is designed by Ken and run by Tyler Lawson.The clever costumes are by Mary Jane McCool and stage manager Alan Conaway keeps things running smoothly all night long. This show is presented with a warning that it contains sexual themes and coarse language so it isn't suitable for children.

The five performers do remarkable work in this farce.Not wanting to spoil the ending, I can only describe some of the details of the show. Maggie Nichols is excellent as Amanda Dolor.(Dolor means sad in Latin) She married Ford three weeks ago and he has been missing for two weeks. He went for a walk by himself and hasn't returned. She spouts poetry with the titles Untitled with various numbers after them. She has many comical situations including a long, hilarious monologue in Act 1 where she tells about making love to Ford and how she thought her neighbors were watching them and another about leaving her purse at the diner, yelling at the waiter and starving herself. Maggie has a funny descriptive orgasm scene where Alice mimics her motions perfectly. When Ford returns she won't let him utter a word but takes him quickly into the bedroom. Maggie is adept at dramatic roles, I last reviewed her as Bella in "Lost in Yonkers". Alice Springer shines as Bea. She makes her a madcap laugh riot with her crazy antics. Bea demands Amanda's address or she will hang up on her and tells her studied being a hot-line worker for six hours and feels qualified having worked in a needlepoint shop for years.She married her old fat husband who is dead because he was Jewish. He was ugly and so is her child but she doesn't want to talk about the child. Bea likes the name Ford, eats a chocolate bar, reads Weight Watcher magazine, Men's Health while she listens to Amanda's long story.

Steve Valdez is Ford, the husband who is working on a mysterious project which unfolds as the show progresses. He does a wonderful job as the object of desire. I last reviewed Steve as Roy in "The Odd Couple" in October. Brian Dunham who is tall, dark and handsome plays Serge, the runway model. He oozes charm in every scene but becomes exasperated with Otto who constantly drops and spills his food all over the place. Serge keeps sweeping up and tells Otto that he is waiting for his new boyfriend. Brian wears a sexy pair of Calvin Klein boxers and a robe. His conceited character elicits many laughs when he does push ups, lifts weights, puts on after shave and gargles. One of his funniest lines is when he explains that they fucked like rabid dogs. He also explains that men, women and children love him madly but he has never felt the ability to love anyone which shows off his softer side. I last reviewed Brian as Jim in "Glass Menagerie". Paul Dixon is hilarious as the crazed food addict. He wears a lot of padding as Otto, who constantly eats different foods including 3 Dunkin' Donuts on pretzel sticks, Fritos, Oreos, sno-cones,bagels and Lucky Charms. Paul is hysterical as he talks and eats, letting the cookies and cereal fly all over the place.He harasses the crap out of Serge. I last reviewed Paul as Eddie in "Lost in Yonkers". There are many twists and turns in the final scene which will leave you in stitches. So for a hilarious new comedy be sure to catch "Food Chain" at MMAS. It will have you laughing out loud all night long.

"The Food Chain" (12 - 28 February)
@ MMAS Blackbox Theater,277 North Main Street, MANSFIELD MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide