Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's review of Mlima's Tale
Feast starts out as a tale of revenge, and we ourselves are to be the main course. Our hostess on stage receives us with an appropriate chill, although small snacks are offered at one point, to soften up the people in the front rows. But it is the monster's own carnivorous smile that gradually softens, in part because she has taken on a human form to lure us in.
The pace was a little brisk on the first Sunday afternoon, which is not unusual for that time slot, after a week of intensive run-throughs and then the opening nights. As a result the descent from god-like wrath to understanding (and even fellowship) seemed to come trippingly on the tongue. Perhaps Friday and Saturday night audiences got a more tentative, geological climb-down through the strata of hate. A faint Slavic-type accent fades gradually, after the first ten minutes or so, probably to help indicate the transition to mortal flesh. It's too bad, I liked that accent.
The physical atmospherics were all there, though, in a beautiful set and props, which hasn't always been the case, in this venue in the past. And Ms. Gogerty's first section of writing in the 65-minute show is full of mysterious descriptions of the violent death of the hostess's son, delivered with a quizzical air, which Ms. Parrone excels at. In those first 20-30 minutes, there are also tantalizing, oblique references to how mother and son fit into our world, and into the realm of legend. My first guess was that she represented Mother Nature herself. But should one read the program before hand, or not?
I would have liked to see the monster inside the human form reemerge more starkly a few times, here and there, in moments of loss or jarring readjustment. The spider, in this case, is a little too charming for the fly. I harken back to Ms. Parrone's own strident characterization, years ago, as the Italian housewife in Orpheus Descending as a great example of her own natural passion and power. She saved that whole show with a visceral performance. Three or four very brief little flashes of that here, too, please. Every story is, to some extent, about adapting to new circumstances. But here, it's all on a rhetorical level.
The physicalization, as well, may be too graceful and fluidperhaps the monster should move a little more monstrously at the outset, chafing under the yoke of human form. But, Ms. Parrone is one of the big names in modern local theater; Mr Signorino has distinguished himself already, as an actor, though young; and the character they create together on stage is one of the great figures of literary monsters. So who am I to say?
The Tesseract Theatre's Feast runs through June 27, 2021, at the .Zack Theatre, 3224 Locust Street, St. Louis MO. Ample street parking (free on Sundays), with a small lighted parking lot across the street. (Sometimes this lot is shared with groups renting space elsewhere in the building.). Audience must wear masks at all times in the building, although there is no social distancing in the seating. For more information visit www.tesseracttheatre.com.