Who hasn’t wanted to occasionally drown their fears? In Hunger, a new play by Sheri Wilner and produced by Emigrant Theater, the lead character does it not with alcohol, but with the Atlantic Ocean.
Diana and Adam are newly engaged twentysomethings on vacation at Adam's parents’ beach house on Nantucket. The dilapidated bungalow is his “favorite place in the whole world,” and he wants to fix it up, even though it’s slowly falling into the sea. The sea pulls in Diana, too, and a witching-hour walk finds her alone on the dunes, filled with a primordial longing to become it. As often happens in plays in which all the characters are metaphors, an anthropomorphic character appears. He calls himself Seymour and moves with the grace and inevitability of high tide. Like the Snake offering Eve the apple, Seymour leaves Diana a pile of fresh oysters and promises to return after she’s “thought about” his offer to leave her body and become water; that is, to become nothing and everything at once. A ravenous Diana sucks them down. “When I look at the waves,” she says, “I know there's another world beneath the water.”
The rest of the play circulates around Diana’s to-be-or-not-to-be crisis. Angie Haigh as Diana (pictured above) returns to the stage after a brief baby-rearing hiatus, and manages to keep her head above water in a thinly written role. The other two actors—Sam Bardwell as Adam and Grant Chapman as Seymour (also pictured)—are both students in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA Actor Training Program but are no worse than some of the more experienced actors in town.
The highlights of Hunger are the set and lighting, by Erica Zaffarano and Geoff Wold, respectively. Zaffarano has dressed the stage in beige tones, light blue satin, and a conch shell big enough to draw blood (but small enough to seem innocuous). Wold’s delicate lighting sets the mood for the interior and exterior action. The scenes when Diana and Seymour are underwater are some of the best in the play, and a fine example of how expert lighting and physical acting can be more than the sum of their parts. Suffice it to say, subtle technical accomplishments do not make a play more satisfying than what it is, just as a good wine can’t disguise mediocre cheese. Hunger’s main course is lacking.
Hunger runs through July 7 at Mixed Blood Theatre’s Alan Page Auditorium, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls.