Cookin' up some fun with The Food Chain

by Joey Guerra

Daily Cougar Staff

How does the Alley end its remarkable 1995-1996 season after winning a Tony award for best regional theater and showcasing the tremendous talents of resident actor Shelley Williams in its elegant production of The Heiress? With sex, suicide hot lines and lots of doughnuts.

The Food Chain is a non-stop, laugh-out-loud farce filled with humorous meetings, obsessive characters and a wildly frenetic performance from Jeffrey Bean, who steals the show as the overweight, under-appreciated Otto. The Alley's production of this play is the first outside the off-Broadway hit (currently running in New York City).

Amanda (Melissa Bowen) is a young woman driven to confide her woes to Bea (Marjorie Carroll), a suicide hot line operator. Amanda's husband of three weeks, Ford (Gregory C. Watt), has been missing for two, claiming the need for "time" to work on his latest film idea. Amanda has been driven to her wit's end, and is quite possibly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The exchange between the women is hilarious. Amanda tells Bea her husband makes movies; Bea asks, "Did he do Howards End? I love that picture!" They fight and they share, with both actresses displaying great comic timing within Silver's witty script.

We then travel to Serge's (Joe Kirkendall) apartment, where he is abruptly visited by a former lover, Otto (Bean). According to Serge, the two "dated briefly" then went their own ways. Serge is now seeing someone new. Tell that to Otto, a grossly overweight nut who invades Serge's apartment, complete with two bags of food.

Otto is intent on getting Serge (a runway model who isn't good enough for print) back in his life. "Would you love me if I weighed 100 pounds? Would you love me if I weighed 50 pounds?" Otto asks.

The scenes involving the two men are equally uproarious, thanks largely to Bean's no-holds-barred performance. He's whiny, annoying, gross and sloppy, creating unbelievably funny moments and turning Serge's apartment into a pigsty of doughnut crumbs, half-eaten Cheetos and Oreo outsides.

At its wacky heart, The Food Chain is indeed about sex, loneliness and being thin, three things we all struggle with in our lives. Each character is dealing with their own problems, creating non-stop laughter along the way.

All of the characters are interrelated, capturing the essence of Silver's title. Creating these characters is a troupe of talented faces, equally deserving mention, including Kirkendall as Serge, who is snobby, somewhat endearing and fed up with Otto's shenanigans.

As Ford, the centerpiece of each dilemma, Watt has little more to do than stand around looking attractive and glossy-eyed in his robe, but he does it with the right amount of self-mockery and dismay with the whole situation.

Silver's characters are all a bit crazy, but then so are their situations. The play is non-stop entertainment and closes the Alley's 1995-1996 season in a fresh, upbeat style.

The Food Chain plays at 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday on the Neuhaus Arena Stage, 615 Texas Ave. Tickets are $18 to $36. Call 228-8421 for more information.

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