Arriving at the Flea Theater for Seating Arrangements, you’ll be whisked off by an actor to a large table, with formal place settings and filled wine glasses (latecomers and shy types take the bleachers). There, he’ll politely chat you up, make sure you’re comfortable, and even compliment your outfit, while a woman in a gold suit beautifully plays the electric violin. Now this, you think, is going to be a great dinner party.
But sadly, the main course (i.e., the play itself) quickly goes nowhere. This collage project about the fine art of dinner-table conversation, which aptly begins with a quote from Miss Manners, relies too heavily on small, clever ideas, without providing any real substance for the audience to sink its teeth into. Inspired by Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast, the work—a collaboration between the Flea Theater’s acting company, the Bats, and experimental Danish company Pold Worm Jensen—features eight performers who take turns earnestly sharing personal stories and political views on everything from gay rights to Mormonism. The result is a fragmented jumble of anecdotes, raps, songs, and rants, the actors constantly interrupting and talking over one another.
This is not to say that there aren’t many terrific moments. Jocelyn Kuritsky’s confession, which begins, “I used to, um, fart . . . a lot . . . when I encountered a man I liked,” is hysterical. And Sylvia Mincewicz paints a wonderfully vivid picture of her experience playing the violin as a child at a communist dinner party in Poland. But in making this collage, it seems no one remembered to bring the glue.