the food was terrible: In brief
Two men at a bar hash out questions big and small in William Burke's offbeat new play, directed by Mary Beth Easley.
the food was terrible: Theater review by Helen Shaw
A man walks into a bar—wait! it’s not a joke!—and says to the bartender, “I was at your daughter’s wake.” The room stills, then quickens. There are a thousand painful implications, and William Burke’s delicately funny theater poem the food was terrible wants to show us a hundred of them. Again and again, drinker (Allain) and pourer (Duck) return to that first sentence, the show rewinding to play theme and variation. Duck might hang his head, or joke offhandedly: “How did she seem?” Gentled by repetition, both devastation and humor go off at a distance—faraway bombs, underground.
Food starts as a villanelle of the overheard; only Will Eno works with such fine, sharp tools. And then Burke’s world shifts to weird. The note-perfect bar suddenly fills with additional artists, scrawling their own chalk-written output. Director Mary Beth Easley elicits calm, bewildered performances from Allain and Duck. They down drinks, blind to the loveliness around them, submerged in loss. Her restraint lets us feel their intoxication—the piece goes down easy, but you leave reeling.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
THE BOTTOM LINE This stylized study of grief creates a warm buzz.