Southern Voice

High on the Food Chain

by Will Mullis

New York gay playwright Nicky Silver has exploded onto the national theater scene with challenging plays that engender both laughter and serious thought. At the rate his plays are being produced, Silver may begin to rival Tony Kushner as the most popular gay playwright of the ''0s. And who better to direct Silver than red-hot gay director Lawrence Keller, the most sought after talent in town these days. The result of their match-up is pure magic at Horizon Theatre's production of The Food Chain. This comedy is just not to be missed.

Silver's play takes a close look into just a few hours in the lives of five frenzied city-dwellers. On the surface, the five Gotham residents seem to have little in common. First we meet Amanda, a naïve, rich poetess who considers four lines in her latest "Untitled" poem a grueling day of work. She is distraught because her quiet filmmaker husband had been missing for the past two of their three weeks of marriage. Desperate to hear a human voice, she phones a crisis hotline and hooks up with Bea. A stereotypical Jewish mother, Bea would rather complain about her own troubles and son than listen to the callers. Nevertheless, the two spill out their guts in alternating monologues as they continuously interrupt each other.

Meanwhile gay model Serge, played by Atlanta newcomer Quint Von Canon, admires himself in his briefs, while waiting for his newest lover to return with fresh clothes. Instead he is surprised by a tenacious former fling, Otto, whose obsession with Serge has compelled him to eat like a machine and blow up to 400 pounds. Despite Serge's fervent protests, Otto barges in to romanticize about their "relationship" while he downs a whole bag of groceries.

On a deeper level, this play is about the psychological chains that link beauty or food to the desperation people experience when they feel unloved. After all, everybody has made fools of themselves over someone else at least once in their lives. But this is not a show that requires deep thought, it is just really funny. Watching Otto, played by Glenn Rainey, chug YooHoos and chow down on a pretzel stick threaded through a stack of donuts brought tears to my eyes. Nita Hardy. Susie Grimley, and Barry Stewart Mann as the elusive husband also perform very well in their roles.

The experienced Keller has directed the talented bunch with nary a hitch. And Rob Medley's clever reversible set gives clues about how close we really are to those we consider different.

Lest you think this is one of those esoteric plays that only critics enjoy, a full house of mostly gay folks laughed right along side us on opening weekend. Since the play runs until Christmas there is plenty of time to see it, but I predict it will soon be the hottest ticket in town.