Given the giant spin cycle otherwise known as Decision ’04, investigating “how [people] know whether or not something is true” ought to rank as a genuine Patriot Act. Downtown stage sociologists the Civilians (Gone Missing) have researched the current “politics of information” by interviewing everyone from recovering cult members to market researchers to a Department of Homeland Security staffer. But the resulting production, a quotation-collage cabaret of reality assessments, merely evinces the culture’s cacophony of opinions rather than interrogating it.
Nobody’s Lunch is neither sufficiently absurdist to achieve comedic critical mass nor analytic enough to qualify as a trenchant analysis of American belief. Surprisingly, director Cosson and his team fail to deploy their considerable skills with any apparent focus. So while the show displays a certain dissonant charm, it never generates a level of contradiction or tension that might push an audience to question its own modes of knowledge-gathering. The gifted ensemble embodies some appealing oddballs (including an entity whose cosmology provides the production’s sly title), but watching the actors stage their citations seems like little more than channel surfing—albeit with good cable. Nobody’s Lunch plays as a promising workshop rather than a fully realized production, more a meze than a meal.