Kelsey Thompson, Robert Thompson, & Jacob Cooper in The Food Chain.
Photo-Louisville Repertory Company
The Food Chain
By Nicky Silver
Directed by Gerry Rose
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
In The Food Chain, Nicky Silver takes something of a Darwinian perspective on relationships, presenting a group of characters undergoing important evolutions in their lives that force their own individual territorial imperatives to the surface, but all of it is explored comically, with no heavy sledding for the audience.
The first act opens with poet Amanda Dolor (Kelsey Thompson) calling a crisis hot line because she is fraught with doubt and neurosis. It is a very long scene that alternates between hilarious verbal exchanges, thanks in large part to Kristy Calman’s spot on caustic Jewish-mother crisis counselor, and narcissistic monologues from Amanda. We then meet Serge Stubbin, (Robert Thompson), who is introduced with an outrageous dance-around-alone-in-your-underwear routine that rivals Tom Cruise in Risky Business. His reverie is interrupted by Otto Woodnick, (Jacob Cooper) a comically obese food-obsessive who is infatuated with Serge. But Serge is equally infatuated with a recent one-night stand, Ford Dolor (Will Gantt), who is, of course, Amanda’s husband.
That will not be the last revelation of interconnectedness among these characters, but it will prove to be the least surprising. The dynamic transitions between light and dark, funny and tragic, are challenging, and the adroit cast, under the direction of Gerry Rose, manages most of it with aplomb. There is an unusual but determined directorial choice in the play’s final moments that left me scratching my head, but I won’t offer any spoilers except to say that what Mr. Silver wrote and what Mr. Rose stages seem to be at odds in that moment, and I will take it as a bracing audacity on the director’s part.
Robert Thompson displays such fluid ingenuity as Serge that he is compelling in his every moment onstage. His freedom of movement and expression is matched by Jacob Cooper’s risky performance as Otto. Encased in an over-the-top fat suit that jettisons credulity for effect, this is a character that could easily turn into a catastrophe, but Rose and Cooper embrace the Jewishness of the caricature and send it sailing directly into the audience’s face.
The Dolors offer a stark contrast; with the nearly mute Ford a leather-clad, Mohawk-haired innocent trying his best to duck the conflicts that surround him. Will Gantt makes this low-key improbability memorable by underplaying every moment. As Amanda, Kelsey Thompson seemed on opening night to be trying too hard, caught up in self-consciousness that belies the evidence that she has indeed made some very apt choices for this character. While Ford hardly speaks a word, Amanda almost can’t shut up, and the loquaciousness gets the better of Thompson. If opening night jitters are the culprit perhaps she will relax into synchronicity with her cast mates as the run continues.
It should also be noted that Amanda and Otto are more complex characters than the others; intellectuals so caught up in their neurosis that they unintentionally distance themselves from the people they need the most. It is no mistake that Amanda and Otto court genuine tragedy in the plot, while Serge and Ford seem more open and free in pursuing their desires.
Sets and costumes were suitable, although one entrance on stage left twice afforded the audience a view of backstage and actors in position, waiting for their cue: an unfortunate technical oversight that should be easily corrected.
Work by writers such as Nicky Silver should be given a warm welcome, and kudos to Louisville Repertory Company for bringing us The Food Chain. This is heady, provocative, and highly entertaining theatre.
The Food Chain
August 21 & 22, 28 & 29 @ 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 23 @ 6:00 PM
Sunday, August 30 @ 5:00 PM
For tickets go to: LouRep.com
Louisville Repertory Company
At The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205