The splendid dinner takes place around a long gilded table, seemingly suspended in the air. At one end sits The King (Okwui Okpokwasili) in T-shirt and torn jeans, nursing a drink in a pewter cup as if parked at the end of a local bar. Joining him—perhaps in the imagination—are four concubines draped in golden robes and indulging in a kind of conversational Saturnalia. (The gabby deities are played by Jenn Dees, Cara Francis, Yuki Kawahisa, and Jason Robert Winfield.)
Feast, written and directed by Andrew Ondrejcak, consists entirely of these partyers’ banquet of free-range talk—rhythmic, opaque, and fixated on descriptions of desire, beauty, and, of course, food. Intimations accrue; civilization may be burning in the background, and their sloping table hovers over a large open pit, as if this carnival of consumption is about to slide into the earth.
Like all Roman holidays, Feast has its moments: When the deities lip-synch amusingly to Handel’s opera Belshazzar, for instance, Ondrejcak highlights the contrast between Baroque expression and the banalities of speech in today’s twilight-American empire. Despite these cartoonish interludes, however, this admirably conceived piece remains theatrically inert, and the heaps of recited language do not develop purposefully. Too much of Feast merely dulls the palate—an experience these pleasure-seeking creatures would surely not tolerate.