Based on the Michael Pollan work by the same name, Prof. Natsu Onoda Power’s adaptation of The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a fresh take on a rotten food industry.
The two-hour experience–bookended by two on-stage portions and anchored by a middle third of interactive vignettes staged throughout the Davis Performing Arts Center–deftly illustrates issues ranging from the abuse of industrial cattle to the gas-guzzling habit of shipping out-of-season produce.
I’m generally wary of interactive theater; as a rule, the audience can’t act. But quality staging and spot-on comedic timing keeps the interactive portion from straining the dramatic tension.
“Meal of Fortune” is a hilarious illustration of the income disparities in access to quality, healthy food. The audience members draw tokens and a fascinating rally of human pinball ensues: kudos to Justine Underhill (COL ’11) for the roller skate acrobatics!
Then again, some acts are more compelling than others. Though well played by the actors, the audience participation required for “Troubled Foods Anonymous” makes the whole bit fall a little flat. I imagine few people want to read the e. coli-laden confessional of baby spinach from a clipboard.
I was also a little frustrated that I didn’t make it to all the interactive acts in the short forty-five minute period allotted (it’s easy to get lost in the DPAC basement). But the sidesplitting third act–staged around a mock picnic table–makes me forget my chagrin. I particularly love the 007-themed chanterelle chase and the Iron Chef battle between a family farm and “big organic.”
Prof. Onoda wrote the show based on the strengths of her actors, and it really shows. Betsy Helmer (COL ’13) is a particularly stand-out act both as the “fading star” of farm-raised salmon and as the cut-throat organic chicken producer Petaluma Poultry. I also love Justin McCarthy’s (COL ’12) quirky interpretation of Michael Pollan and Nehemiah Markos’ (COL ’14) portrayal of his eccentric Italian friend Antonio.
I also have to endorse the delicious lobster and corn bisque the cast members serve up at the end along with a documentary about its production. Vox can get behind any show that serves a snack.
You have five more chances to see Omnivore’s Dilemma before it closes on Sunday. Unfortunately, the regular tickets are completely sold out. However, there are a few standby tickets available an hour before each show.
Photo by Rafael Suanes