Feast Is Highly Recommended, Earns 3.5/4 Stars from Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones

Feast Is Highly Recommended, Earns 3.5/4 Stars from Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones


At one point in "Feast," the moving and provocative show by the Albany Park Theater Project, a young performer asks the audience a direct question: How many have been to the public aid office?

In recent weeks, a new program publisher has been widely promoting the "affluence" of the Goodman Theatre audience, so that question had a certain currency. At first no hands went up. The performer stood there, staring.

Slowly, a cluster of arms were raised in the air. Heads turned. Complex thoughts swirled around the theater. And then attention snapped back to the kid asking the question, a teenager who was not moving on without a full and fair accounting.

That little social experiment was an example of the guts of the Albany Park Theater Project, the educational organization in the mostly lower-income Chicago neighborhood with the formidably high artistic standards (and the annual summer slot at the Goodman).

"Feast," which I first reviewed in 2010, could easily have been a kind of theatrical Taste of Chicago, a colorful, ideology-free celebration of immigrant cuisine, which is a pretty safe topic for an audience, given that far more people go to ethnic restaurants staffed by young immigrants than ever encounter the public aid office.

But the show — team-directed by David Feiner, Mikhail Fiksel, Halena Kays, Stephanie Paul, Maggie Popadiak and Rossana Rodríguez Sánchez — always makes clear that, for most Chicagoans, food is an economic issue, not a chance to dine at one of the Ten Hottest New Restaurants To Try Now.

APTP created this show based on the actual lives of the company members, and the stories they came up with fall into two distinct groups. One probes how the food of our homelands profoundly influences us for our whole lives — actually, it does not have to be our homeland, but just the homeland of someone who still was alive when we were children. The other probes how our experience of food as young people is underpinned by desire and embarrassment.

There is much talk of what it's like to brandish a LINK card at the checkout line and to watch the faces of others in line. There is a moving monologue about a mother without much money who shops for herself at Aldi, but buys brand names for her kid at Jewel, for to feed is to love. There is a sense of the excitement that comes to a child whose regular table is modest but who, on special occasions, encounters a great feast that defines their culture and whence they came.

That said, much of the show (well performed by the 2015 cast of 8th through 12th graders) is about the joy of munching on favorite items — and a feast is not necessarily linked to quantity — and on the rich and spiced storytelling that surrounds the hunting and gathering of that which we eat, ideally around those we love.

REVIEW: Feast by Albany Park Theatre Project at the Goodman Theatre
3.5/4 STARS
When: Through Aug. 16
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Tickets: $10-$25 at 312-443-3800 or GoodmanTheatre.org/Feast