Food for thought
The Food Chain
It’s a fascinating coincidence that while the rate of obesity is increasing so is that of anorexia. In this nation of image-conscious, stressed-out people, food isn’t just fuel; it’s a Band-Aid, a companion and a punishment. At least, it is in Nicky Silver’s The Food Chain, directed by Mary Bennett and on stage this month at Brüka Theatre.
Literally, the play is about food, but it’s also about people who feed off each other for survival and who place undue importance on physical appearance. The play opens with Amanda, played by Amy Ginder, in her fashion-magazine-lined Manhattan apartment. She frantically digs out a telephone number and calls Bea (Kathy Welch), a crisis hotline counselor and retiree.
Amanda, an anorexic, has called because her husband of only three weeks, Ford, left two weeks ago and hasn’t contacted her. Amanda explains to Bea that she is a poet by trade, and a bad one at that. She met Ford only a month ago at an art show. She was immediately captivated by his charm, took him home, made mad, dirty love to him and married him a week later. A week after that, Ford left without explanation. Since then, Amanda hasn’t eaten, and she’s only left her apartment once, during which time she fought with a waiter, nearly killed some children and became angry about our image-conscious, patriarchal society. Bea, whose sage advice is to “put on a shorty nightgown,” is a widow whose family has its own problems. At the scene’s end, when Ford (KC Mares) returns—wordlessly—Amanda hangs up.
In Scene Two, we meet Serge (Andy Luna), the gay runway model who enjoys lounging around his ultra-clean apartment in his tighty-whiteys and gazing lustfully at his own reflection in the mirror. He receives a visitor: Otto, his obese, gay, friend/stalker, bearing grocery bags full of snacks. Otto, played by Bill Ware, steals the show as Serge’s ex-lover. They dated “briefly” four years ago, yet Otto spends all his time begging Serge to come back, while fielding calls from his hateful mother, complaining of the heat and eating to distraction to fill his lonely soul. Serge has moved on and tries desperately to get rid of Otto in anticipation of his latest lover’s arrival.
Lest you wonder what any of this has to do with the aforementioned Amanda/Ford/Bea saga, don’t worry; Scene Three wraps it all up in a messily tied bow. I don’t want to spill the beans, but I will say that there is gunplay; Ford will eventually say something; and an inordinate amount of violence will be committed with, and toward, food. The message, as I see it, is that we have to satisfy our own souls, and that shouldn’t involve food at all.
There are many moments in this show that feel over the top, such as Amanda’s many long-winded monologues in Scene One; or Welch’s Bea, who seems often to be channeling Linda Richman from Saturday Night Live‘s “Coffee Talk.” Such performances almost seem like too much for Brüka’s intimate space. But then again, considering the weight of the characters’ collective psychological burdens, maybe it’s appropriate. Ware’s hilarious Otto is alone worth the price of admission.
I hope I’m not giving too much away when I say that I’ll never look at a Hostess Ho-Ho the same way again.