Cory Finley’s comedy-thriller The Feast, now in its world premiere at The Flea Theater, smartly mixes the comedic and the macabre. Only at its fuzzy ending does it confound. Peel back its magical-horror story of ancient sewer creatures who reach out to a gentle artist named Matt (Ivan Dolido) through his toilet, and you’ll find a perceptive study of a character and relationship.
Matt’s sure he and his girlfriend Anna (Marlowe Holden) are doing just great – sharing an apartment, communicating honestly, and having excellent sex. He’s a contented painter with a fruitful relationship with an art dealer; she’s a driven business consultant preoccupied with the jargon of “deliverables.” Sure, Matt’s in therapy, but even that seems to be going awfully well.
Yet, just as the couple’s surface sheen hides serious interpersonal, perhaps psychological problems, Matt’s bathroom is a gateway to much more than innocuous pipes and sewers. What or who is making those screaming or groaning sounds? Or is it just the plumbing? What’s real and what isn’t? Is a wizardly voice of knowledge really speaking to Matt through his acquaintances (all played by Donaldo Prescod), steering him towards a supernatural destiny? Or is much of what we see on stage nothing more than the interior imagery of a fugue state?
I think the final scene suggests the macabre goings-on may be part of a psychosis. But I wasn’t sure. This tight one-hour play left me with a solid appreciation for Finley’s deft dialogue and sense of humor, as well as for director Courtney Ulrich’s neatly shaped staging and artful drawing out of the humor in the script. The skills of the technical team, especially Andrew Diaz’s set, are notable too.
Dolido gives us a winningly unpredictable Matt, intellectual but emotionally tender, charismatically anti-charismatic. Holden is briskly convincing too, holding and then revealing Anna’s secrets in the best tradition of domestic drama.
I would have liked to understand more immediately the intention behind the ambiguous action, but I did leave with a satisfying sense of Aristotelian catharsis. The Feast is at The Flea through April 5. For details and tickets visit the show page.