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DEAD MAN'S DINNER
It's ten years in the future and New York has been under siege for all that time. People are hiding in their all but demolished apartments, venturing out only once a week with their precious ration cards to get their allotment of food, which is insufficient at best and soon to be cut even more. Living in a now cold, shabby, barren apartment on the 25th floor of an upper west building are Olympia Oates (Annalisa Loeffler) and her daughter Petra (Zohra Benzerga). Their plight is made clear from the beginning, as they talk about eating, dreaming of the foods they love and remembering happy, well-fed times before what is always referred to as "the siege." A homeless young woman (Kate Garfield) shows up at their door, and is allowed to stay, soon becoming lovers with the daughter. When the daughter leaves to hunt a rat to eat, another stranger (Marquis Wood) shows up, and the mother cautiously lets him in. He has been the victim of a common occurence - he was beaten by thugs who attempted, unsuccessfully, to steal his ration card. After another dreamy conversation about food, the mother kills the stranger with a frying pan and takes his card.
The play proceeds with variations on the theme - talk of better days, fighting over cans of food, thoughts of killing one another or committing suicide. The mother tries to kill the girlfriend, the girlfriend tries to convince the mother to leave, their moods change as in one scene they profess their love for one another and in the next are willing to commit murder to ease their hunger. Though basically civilized, they are pushed beyond their limits, even to the point of murdering with no remorse. At the end, the dead man's brother (also played by Marquis Wood) shows up and, aware that they killed his brother, seems to put barrier outside their door so they are unable to leave. The women go slightly mad, gobble all their rations in only two days and have nothing to look forward to but a sorry, starving end. In a last effort to leave, the girlfriend is able to force open the door, only to find that it was blocked by the body of the brother, who died on their doorstep. They rejoice, cut up his body, and happily eat him raw.
The play contained some wit and humor, beautifully delivered in a stellar performance by Annalisa Loeffler as the mother. The theme - what does it take to push people to unspeakable acts, does love trump hunger, can love survive years of deprivation - are legitimate, but at one hour and 45 minutes, the playwright was figuratively, not literally as the characters would have wished, beating a dead horse. Scene after scene with solo spots, or interaction with the characters, usually two in a scene, did not illuminate the situation nor add to the drama. Dead Man's Dinner would have more impact and say more with less.
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