Plumbing the Depths

Matt (Ivan Dolido) is not the type to freely admit that anything in his life is going poorly. He thinks secrets are a sign of adulthood and performing is an important part of life. So if you were to ask him how he’s doing, chances are he would rave about the quality of his painting as of late, the shape he’s in, the freedom he feels. He would be less inclined to mention that his two-year relationship with Anna (Marlowe Holden) has been imperiled by infidelity and that he may or may not be hearing voices from a Lovecraftian race of fish people emanating from his toilet. But in his private moments, his fear and fascination possess him and he is eventually able to go “down there,” to the source of the voices, an ancient, inspiring civilization that leads him to produce a masterful work of art at a potentially lethal cost.

Mr. Dolido and Ms. Holden don’t have an ounce of chemistry on stage, which may be a deliberate choice given the state of their relationship. If so, it was not the right choice. Their crumbling romance is meant to be built on a foundation of unlikely success, the pairing of an artist and a corporate consultant. There is little in the script or in the execution that suggests why their relationship might be worth salvaging in the first place. It’s the central problem with The Feast, an otherwise entertaining sixty-minute piece. It’s difficult to feel invested in Matt and Anna’s faltering relationship, especially when far more dramatic premises are lurking just under the toilet seat.

While a lack of detail doesn’t improve Matt and Anna’s romance, the tantalizingly brief tidbits we get about the otherworldly creatures below make them all the more intriguing. At times, everyone in Matt’s life seems to know of them and their intentions and these eerie moments allow Donald Prescod to shine. Mr. Prescod is the actor tasked with playing every other character in The Feast (including, in the play’s finest moment, Anna) and he respects his own talents and the audience’s intelligence enough to not adopt voices or postures that signal which character we’re watching. At times, he and the largely unseen creatures seem like the stars of the show.

The Feast feels like the beginning of a set of good ideas. It’s a highly original piece with a surrealistic crescendo that, with a little effort, may have served as a satisfying ending itself. However, in its final moments, concrete reality returns. Unlike Matt, the play itself has little to show for its plunge into the weird. It merely barges its way to a conclusion that is visually satisfying but emotionally bereft.

The Feast runs through April 5th at the Flea Theater.  41 White Street  New York, NY.  1 hour.  No intermission.

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Ben Botwick

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