Monday, February 11, 2013

Theater of the Stomach: A Review of Broadway's FOODACTS

Now playing at The Lion Theater in Times Square, FOODACTS reminds us that food is everywhere—even in the most acclaimed literary achievements. We were invited as press to sit down for this literary “meal” of established novels, poetry, historic essays, letters and other literary works. Some might be familiar with the featured texts, but FOODACTS asks you to return to them from new perspective: these are the passages your teachers skipped over. There is something for everyone, including serious, heavyweight works from Homer, John Milton, Dante, and the like, but the show is at its most delicious when conveying the comedic side of food.  Our favorite vignettes included:

·         Dorothy Parker’s “But the One on the Right,” performed by the excellent Judith Bancroft, in a very real scene in which a dinner guest finds herself trapped at the dinner table next to a dolt of a guest, when she would really prefer to speak to the man to her right;

·         W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Three Fat Women of Antibes,” in which three constantly-dieting women must endure a visit from a perpetually-thin friend;

·         Langston Hughes’s “Simple Uncle Sam,” in which the main character tries to order dinner at a take-out place in Harlem. Based on the audience’s reaction, it’s safe to say that, when it comes to New York City food culture, some things have not changed. Antonio Edwards Suarez brings life to the server behind the counter, making it even the more real;

·         Peter Hessler’s “Rat in my Soup,” points to the challenges we as diners face when trying to immerse ourselves in local culture.  Food quickly becomes the biggest barrier to full immersion, even more than language; and,

·         “Anthony Bourdain’s “Secret Ingredients” made us laugh as the voice of Tony translates the nonsensical orders of kitchen staff in New York City’s “culinary underbelly.”

It follows that we might be most attracted to the comedic vignettes, because that’s the same attitude we have towards wine. We’ve always said that wine should be about the experience—enjoyment first, seriousness last. Like wine, food exists on a spectrum from “very casual” to “haute cuisine,” but we insist that the focus should be on fun. This play was certainly fun, and left us hungry for more (literally).

FOODACTS is playing at The Lion Theater at 410 W. 42nd Street through February 24. Tickets ($18) can be found here.

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