REVIEW: Feast (Albany Park Theatre Project)

This ‘Feast’ will leave you wanting more


Albany Park Theatre Project presents
Written by the APTP ensemble
Laura Wiley Theatre, 5100 N. Ridgeway (map)
thru May 8th  |  tickets: $6-$18  |  more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Albany Park Theatre Project has proved to be one of the most exciting and all around cool theatre companies in Chicago. Founded in 1997 by artistic director David Feiner and his late wife Laura Wiley, the theatre company creates all original collaborative work feast_4with the youth of Albany Park. Their current production, Feast, uses movement, music and oral storytelling to create a truly unique piece of theatre.

After attending Feast, I talked to David Feiner on the phone, who told me that he and his wife set out to create community theatre that would “permanently establish a higher quality of art.”  When asked why they chose Albany Park, (Feiner and Wiley met as undergrads at Yale Drama School) he told me that the historically immigrant population and the “dearth of after school programs for teens” cemented in his mind that Albany Park was the ideal location for starting a new theatre company. After thirteen years in operation, Feiner said, “it’s just become home.”

Feast was created using a method unique to Albany Park Theatre Project: Rehearsals are run by an adult “directing team” made up of four core members.  The writing process begins with what Feiner calls, “assembling the script,” instead of writing, the actors embark on a near paperless process of discussion, improvisation and amazingly innovative field projects. The cast is grouped into teams, who are assigned  investigative duties. For Feast, all projects were centered around the theme of food. The teams were broken up and sent out to meet and interview butchers, street vendors, farmers and everything in between (including a team that investigated breast feeding). Feiner relayed that the group cooked together, learned about herding sheep and took a field trip to a lamb farm in central Illinois. Additionally, everyone involved in the show contributed pieces from their own lives by submitting to an interview about their “food autobiography.”  And as Feast involves a heavy dose of music and movement, a sound designer and percussion director/ choreographer were also brought in as collaborators on the production.

From the things the ensemble learned through this discovery process, the cast assembled performance pieces with improv, writing and roundtable analysis, and in doing so discovered amazingly rich and textured details about food cultures around the world.

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One of the best sections of Feast occurs in the first scene. A group of three teenagers playing characters close in age to themselves discuss their experiences with LINK cards. In  this piece, we meet a shy, sweet and gentle teen girl filling out a LINK application for her mother. The monologue is subtly hilarious, and very well acted. This fantastic gentleness is then complimented by the energetic bursts of another teenage girl, whimsically describing a grocery excursion she took to Aldi, all while offering an amazing acrobatic movement piece with a shopping cart. (Feiner told me that during rehearsal process, this young actress watched old tapes of Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers to help choreograph a waltz with her cart as her partner.)

Another jaw dropping piece involves a group of teenage boys relaying a story about a young boy and his cow. The central monologuist narrates as a group of teenage artists enrich the performance with cleverly orchestrated sounds.

The result of the culmination of work is a symphony of opinions that bring food stories from different cultures and times into a cohesive statement. This is a production that soars above expectations associated with words like “community theater” and “teenage production.” Albany Park Theatre Project has enough integrity, talent and focus to raise the bar of community theater.

Rating: ★★★½