Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Food Chain - by Nicky Silver
I found a collection of his plays downstairs in the unpacked boxes, so there will be a few more of these. Excellently there was an introduction to this one. I love introductions written by playwrights. I think it was reading Tennessee William's introductions to his plays that lodged somewhere in my head and launched this path that I am on. Wrestling with this form, this way to make theater.
Silver's introduction describes graduating from the Experimental Theatre Wing at Tisch/NYU and then having a situation where he could put up his plays as he wrote them. He did this for five or six years with some plays going on to further life, but others just existing there in that moment. Excellent. I always imagine writers coming out of nowhere, they don't. And they don't just start writing masterpeices. Probably the why the current climate is so tricky for new writing - when there are so few resources and so much risk involved with putting anything up - how do you just do something. The situation Silver describes, of a theatre just handing over whatever un-booked time there was to him for free, seems like a by gone time. One more reason rising property values is a bad thing for artists.
So, The Food Chain unfolds over three scenes. The first scene has Amanda on the phone with Bea. Amanda's husband of two weeks, Ford, left to go work on a film right after their wedding and Amanda has called a suicide help line and gotten Bea, a particularly self-centered counselor on the line. Amanda tells her story, describes her distraught state and at the end of the scene Ford returns, into Amanda's arms and offers no explanation - while Amanda works to squelch any recriminations she may have. In the second scene, Otto is in Serge's apartment trying to win back his love. Otto eats constantly and is over-weight. Serge is a runway model - and is waiting for his true love to return - trying patiently to get Otto to leave. Over the scene it's revealed that their relationship Otto is mourning was all of two dates a couple year ago. At the end of the scene a phone call. It is Serge's love saying that he's not coming. In the third scene, Serge turns up at Amanda's apartment seeking the love of his life, Ford. Otto follows Serge in and Bea, the phone counselor turns up angry with Amanda for hanging up on her. They fight over the beautiful reticent Ford's affections. Throughout Ford speaks no more than a 'Well" and a couple "Uh-Huh"s - finally finishing with Amanda and Serge agreeing to share him and then going to have awesome sex, while he eats the last of Otto's food.
In this published version, Silver's offered two endings -dramatically different in action - centering on Otto's response to the final relational configurations.
Looking at it, each scene is so cleanly driven by needs, objectives and obstacles - with stories and coincidences flying off the energy that the action creates. Particularly scene 2 which is the simple acting exercise where one actor wants to stay and the other actors wants them to leave. Here though, written and given huge life, this simple conflict is spun into yarn that weaves the whole cloth of the play.
Next in this collection, Pterodactyls.