According to countless posters on subways and buses, if we see a suspicious package, we should inform the proper authorities. But what if that package is a rather cheerful looking gym bag? And what if it’s making mewing sounds? Well, if you’re the Civilians, you’ll keep shuttling the bag offstage—kitty-cat sounds and all—and nervously attempt to go on with the show.
The bomb-or-kitten bag serves as a leitmotif for (I Am) Nobody’s Lunch, whose prolix subtitle reads, A Cabaret About How We Know What We Know When Nobody Knows if Everyone Else Is Lying and When Someone or Something Wants to Have You for Lunch. The Civilians, an insouciant documentary theater company, have compiled dozens of interviews on the nature of fear, information, and news sources, and then edited and re-created them. Michael Friedman provides the catchy songs.
Some of the material has staled a bit since its original performance in 2004. Calling every Jessica Lynch listed in the phone book and asking them to retell the story of media sensation Jessica Lynch seemed a jolly idea then, but is now a bit of a head-scratcher. Nevertheless, the piece is stronger than in its earlier incarnation (more coherent, less indulgent) and there’s more than sufficient comedy and intellectual engagement to quiet any carping. The six-person cast is excellent—particularly Quincy Tyler Bernstine, who lends a winsomeness to her musical numbers, and Jennifer R. Morris. Brad Heberlee deftly negotiates the difficult roles of an alien being from the Pleiades and a Risky Business–era Tom Cruise. (“Is Tom Cruise gay?” is apparently the vital question in these truth-hungry times.) Indeed, for a musical about epistemology, it’s phenomenological . . . er, phenomenal.