REVIEW: 'Eat the Runt' from GroundWorks Theatre
With consistently superb casting and amazingly focused direction, Avery Crozier's Eat The Runt is given its due in the play's Nashville premiere by GroundWorks Theatre. Now onstage through October 24 at the Darkhorse Theatre, the comedy is a smartly written treatise on the arts, workplace manipulation, "human resources" and political correctness-heady subjects all that combine for one of the funniest plays of contemporary vintage that we've seen.
Crozier's play manages to be both intellectual and entertaining (who'd have thunk it?) without any hint of condescension or superiority. Thanks to veteran director A. Sean O'Connell's sure-handed mounting of the work and her exceptionally well-cast ensemble, the absurdly comic tale is altogether believable and relatable. Eat the Runt provides an evening of richly compelling theatre on all levels.
Somehow Crozier manages to cut a wide swath through contemporary societal manners and mores, touching on such heretofore incendiary (not to mention timely) topics as religion, politics, racism, sexism and white supremacy. He very deftly handles his task, crafting a comedy that is sure to provoke thought while providing a healthy dose of raucous laughter.
In Eat the Runt, we are presented with the character of Merritt, who has flown in from California for an interview with an art museum, presumably located somewhere in the east. As Merritt makes his way through the maze that is contemporary human resourcing, we meet a rather interesting group of individuals who somehow manage to work together while nurturing their disdain for one another. That it rings altogether too true to life might be frightening, but that's modern America for you!
When another man shows up, purporting to be the real Merritt (or "New Merritt," as he is referred to in the program, a la New Coke), all hell breaks loose.
Throughout the interview process for the two Merritts, you'll witness religious fervor resulting in talking in tongues, "prompted by the ingestion of a 2,000-year-old foreskin," some mild foot fetishism, a debate on the realities of how much "African" constitutes African-American and some pertinent art facts that might serve you well if you find yourself on Jeopardy.
Staged simply and evocatively in the intimate confines of the Darkhorse Theatre, the museum offices are nonetheless presented realistically, with art lining the "walls" of the stage, providing the proper backdrop for the play's action.
O'Connell's cast might well deliver the season's best ensemble performance. Clearly, it's the best we've seen thus far, featuring some new faces along with some of Nashville theatre's best-loved veteran actors, including Adele Akin, Reischa Feuerbacher, Cee Anthony, Marc Mazzone, Lily Palmer, Frank Preston and Lisa Marie Wright. Each of the actors is given an opportunity to shine onstage in Crozier's cleverly written script and they each take up the challenge with confidence. Simply put, there isn't a false moment to be found during the seemingly short two-act comedy.
--Eat the Runt. By Avery Crozier. Directed by A. Sean O'Connell. Produced by Robert A. O'Connell. Presented by GroundWorks Theatre at Darkhorse Theatre, 4610 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville. Through October 24. For ticket information, visit the company website at www.groundworkstheatre.com.