BWW Reviews: A Culinary Odyssey
If it is your intention to find your way out of a normal theatre or conventional black box you should find your way to The Invisible Dog. The raw and deconstructed space in Brooklyn is showing "And if You Lose Your Way, or A Food Odyssey. The play, consisting of small ensemble cast, is a adaptation of the story of Penelope and Odysseus from Homer's the Odyssey. However, in this telling the past is interwoven with the present in sometimes surreal and candid moments.
After being warmly greeted, one travels the two flights up to the theatre space. Not bad traveling company as we were accompanied by a semi modern cardboard snake that reached up to the first floor as a vine. Walking into the airy space meant being flooded by the light of the floor to ceiling windows and finding ourselves in front of a simple bar offering sangria and such and a post-it wall. The wall filled with foodie questions were littered with the answers of other theatre goers. As you added your answers to the walls, you could read the touching and sometimes funny answers of others. I made my way towards the seating area while refreshments were offered by the actors. And yes, you have that right--snacks ladies and gents are offered throughout the play. I have to say, I have no idea why this concept hasn't overtaken broadway.
The costumed actors milling around added to the American grassroots feel around the space. Exposed piping, large over sized tables, a sink showing signs of a hard necessity found there punctuated the room. The stage itself, not a stage in the traditional sense, but an open area was set simply, yet articulately. The seating was an assortment of rustic chairs surrounding the area. Under the direction of Pirronne Yousefzadeh and writing of Lauren Feldmen, the show runs a about two hours with an 15 minute intermission, and it started with the actors immediately breaking the fourth wall and harmonizing. This cast is multi talented. They not only sing, but play instruments from the guitar to xylophone and make some of their own sound effects. Furthermore, they set the tone for the play: you are not here simply to watch...we can see and talk to you too. This is an interactive play, not only in the sense where the actors speak to the audience, but bring them on stage. The action takes place up and downstage, depending on where your sitting, though I did wish the downstage props were closer to the main stage. Some of the performances were missed by the audience. As they passed out snacks, they sang, played instruments and were engaging.
Second act lighting set a clearer mood, though that may be because it was darker outside, as the floor to ceiling windows were left open. It was marked by fuller, more confident singing, the banishment of the other suitors, Maha Chehlaoui, Terrell Donnell Sledge, and Leah Walsh and the return of Ody (Nick Chosksi). As you follow his journey, we see the journey of food. It lightly parallels our changes, desires, and sense memories as we have become a food nation.
Performances to look forward to included the chemistry between Leah Walsh (Emily, Suitor) and Damon Daunno (Tel). It felt like one was listening to the sweet private whispers of young love--you want to turn away and made your own business, but you can't because it's so damn cute. Josh Sauerman dazzled as the unsure but sincere Suitor 107 against Rachel Rusch (Penelope). The perfomances between Penelope and Ody at their reunion, were given in silence, yet filled with words unsaid. Broken only with Tel's arrival it continued to bring the audience back to the love they shared as a family as Penelope hands him a drink--a moment they shared in happier times, earlier in the play.
In the end the audience was brought on stage to enjoy a meal with each other served by the cast. This is a warm, heartfelt play, that feels like home and luckily I was able to bring a great friend of mine. Above all it is a journey through relationships in good company where the characters become actors, or people really and you don't know when that happened or if there should even be a distinction.
Beware of the Great Saltine Challenge...what you don't know what that means? I guess you'll have to go see the play then. Playing through June 28th at the Invisible Dog, 51 Bergen St, Brooklyn, NY. For the full performance schedule and to purchase tickets in advance, please visit http://afoododyssey2014.brownpapertickets.com or www.andifyouloseyourway.org. (Photo Courtesy Lauren Rayner).