“I am Alive and I’m Eating Cookies”: Review of Walking Shadow Theatre’s FEAST
FEAST opens like a horror movie. A room full of patrons hushes as the lights in the restaurant dim. We all look toward the head table. On it is a single, unsullied table setting. Behind it is an elegant green and gold chair, waiting for its host.
An echoing clang marks the opening of the door on stage right. A bright light shines from the door and onto the stage. A figure that most of us can hear before we can see makes its way to the table. The figure – grunting as it traverses the space – is crouched close to the ground, all elbows and knees and hunched back. It deposits a mysterious bag onto the table and then begins the arduous process of snapping its bones into place until it successfully unfolds into a woman with perfectly curled hair, wearing a tasteful black dress and a small necklace. She takes us in before addressing us – her honored guests.
Thus begins a retelling of Beowulf told from the perspective of Grendel’s mother: a non-human entity who comes to us in a body that she says she crafted from clay. This FEAST is her final attempt to make us, the descendants of her son’s murderer, realize that her son was not the monster. It was Beowulf, the man who has had a reputation as a hero for the last 2600 years. He was the monster.
And so too is every man like him.
FEAST is dark. It uses Beowulf as a proxy for the sins of humankind. His murder of a so-called monster is presented as one instance of the pattern of violence and greed that has marked humans from their beginning. Beowulf found fame and wealth through his brutality. So too do other humans. We destroy the natural world and our own peers in the pursuit of the same thing Beowulf did: money, power, celebrity.
Although thematically heavy, FEAST is full of physical comedy, delightful (and sometimes gory) mime work, and witty language that will keep you laughing consistently throughout the show and thinking about it for days afterward.
Isabel Nelson is masterful in this role. Nelson is as terrifying as they are gentle, as silly as they are sexy, as motherly as they are monstrous, and as compelling as they are repellent. Nelson effortlessly navigates a script that asks them to call an entire room of sleepy dinner patrons to arms against the ruling class, grieve their dead son, mime murder after murder, and distribute a heart-wrenching communion of their own heart.
The team behind this show has created something powerful. Allison Vincent’s direction is palpable and felt both playful and collaborative. Lighting a dining / event space effectively is no small feat and the sound design elevated small moments and underscored large ones. And just you wait until you see what Whittney Streeter created as the centerpiece for the final scene.
Black Forest Inn offers a pre-show dinner before Feast. There are alternating musical acts that play during dinner (when I attended, I had the pleasure of hearing Sycamore Gap, which is a medieval-feeling three-piece band). The dinner is a fun little plus up, but aside from the butternut squash soup, which was absolutely decadent, I don’t think you miss out on much if you just attend the show.
The run of the show has recently been extended through April 1, but the venue is small and remaining ticket sales are limited. Tickets are available at the website, linked below.
The Black Forest Inn
1 E. 26th St., Minneapolis
Tickets: Starting from $15.00-up