Lunchtime play-reading series
THEATERS: Venues in Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich, and Newtown
Clearly, “Play With Your Food” has struck a nerve, meeting a need that must have existed all along. Thanks to the vision of its co-founders, Artistic Director Carole Schweid and Producer Nancy Diamond, the lunchtime play-reading series offers a quick and witty entrée into Fairfield County culture. In fact the title itself, with its double meaning, sets the tone.
A recent sampling of “Play With Your Food,” held at Toquet Hall in Westport, offered three short pieces. Setting the mood for conviviality, a buffet lunch preceded the program. The house was packed, and the theatergoers juggled their lunches--perched on the stage rim, standing about, or occupying their own seats. But these inconveniences did not dim the audience’s ardor. Viewers were geared for the main event.
The pieces ranged from comic to satiric to serious. The one-act play, Becky Mode’s “Fully Committed” was followed by excerpts from Susan Miller’s “The Grand Design” and “I Hate Hamlet” by Paul Rudnick.
“Fully Committed” is a hilarious take on the upscale New York restaurant scene, and is a sure-fire, can’t-miss offering. Actors David Foubert, Tom Zingarelli, and Kathryn Marchand were up to the challenge, with Zingarelli and Marchand taking on numerous roles in quick succession, while Foubert played the harassed reservations clerk. Playwright Mode, who had once worked in New York restaurants, brings authenticity to her satire.
In the last piece, Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet” is a sharply-drawn portrait of John Barrymore. It provides Foubert a chance to show his versatility, as he contrasts the arrogant, self-centered Barrymore with his earlier role as the uncertain restaurant menial.
Between the two lightly-drawn pieces is “The Grand Design,” a heavy piece for noontime consumption. Miller’s exploration of man’s identity and his place in the universe is at times provocative, but, more often, confusing. Nonetheless actor Mia Dillon puts her professional mark on the proceedings, and Joe Paulik works to meet the challenge. Mostly, Schweid has cast Equity players, and they carry the pieces off with aplomb. Surely there are rough edges, but, as the directors indicated in the talk-back following the program, the actors get very little time for rehearsals.
In all, “Play With Your Food” is proving to be a highly professional and satisfying project, as it continues to expand in Fairfield County towns. Schweid, Diamond and company must be doing something right.
-- Irene Backalenick
Feb. 4, 2010