Loading...
 

Theater Review - All you can eat

Synchronicity play puts obsessions on the menu

Slurping sounds and moans of pleasure resound in 7 Stages Back Stage Theatre between scenes of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. You're never quite sure whether you're hearing the noises of eating or the noises of sex. They sound almost the same in the dark.

??
Synchronicity Performance Group's Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner finds humor in the unrestrained appetites of two sisters. The older one, Minerva (Minka Wiltz), craves food and opens the play with a speech that lustfully evokes kettle chips, Paul Newman's fig bars and hot dogs on a stick. A cake floats within her reach and Minerva matter-of-factly starts eating it with her hands until pink icing smears her face and fingers. Wiltz punctuates the scene by demurely applying lipstick to her sticky, dripping mouth.

??
Minerva's little sister, Alice (Bobbi Lynne Scott), may not be a nymphomaniac, but her extremely active sex drive leads her to make poor choices, and currently she's sleeping with a cop she knows only as "Officer Fernandez" (Mark Russ). In Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, playwright Luis Alfaro engagingly — but at times confusingly — explores how the sisters try to satisfy their physical cravings at the expense of more meaningful nourishment.

??
Minerva frequently diets and exercises but keeps adding pounds, and throughout the play Wiltz puts on transparent plastic hoops of increasing girth to simulate Minerva's expanding dimensions. Minerva grows from overweight to obese to piano-crate proportions. Her longtime husband, Al (Allen Hagler), claims not to care about her appearance, but his weight-loss advice proves less than supportive: "You have to stop being embarrassed and start being ashamed," he "helpfully" suggests.

??
Al tries to show his physical attraction to Minerva but she rebuffs him morosely. Meanwhile, Alice's boyfriend proves even worse at relationships, despite their carnal connection. Officer Fernandez speaks almost entirely in police jargon and uses "arrest" metaphors for commitment. He and Al don't understand what the women want, but they're not just masculine jerks. Minerva and Alice wrestle with the emotional and spiritual emptiness that feeds their superficial desires.

??
For the men, sports turn out to be almost as vital as food and sex, and Hagler and Russ prove consistently hilarious in their well-meaning cluelessness. Russ, with his short hair, little mustache and cop uniform, constantly finds humorous aspects of misplaced machismo, comparable to a preening Will Ferrell role. At a low ebb, Officer Fernandez despairingly munches pizza for one while "All By Myself" plays.

??
For all the humor the play finds in food issues, director Michele Pearce proves surprisingly and appealingly mature about sex. Alice and Officer Fernandez share some steamy moments — including long kisses and "snapshots" of their bedroom gymnastics — but however lighthearted, they come across as realistic rather than simply titillating.

??
Similarly, Scott could have played Alice as a caricature of a slut; instead, the character's libido simply comes across as one side of a funny, believable, multifaceted young woman. The play's foundation rests on the amusing, comfortable interplay between Scott and Wiltz that feels like the private jokes and sisterly concerns of real siblings.

??
In the second act, the play switches from quirky and credible to a flight of outright fantasy reminiscent of the lyrics to Talking Heads' "And She Was." Perhaps the playwright implies that one of the characters begins to perceive a life that transcends fleshly pleasures, although the baffling final image seems to be a downbeat contradiction to the show's more positive themes.

??
A few of Alfaro's lines, such as "I've got to get my smile back," belong in weak Meg Ryan rom-coms, but Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner generally shows a strong creative imagination. If the play's last moments can put you off your feed, Alfaro's consistently puckish approach to male-female obsessions whets your appetite for more.