Feed The Monster
nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
August 14, 2010
Call me crazy, but when I attend a show produced under the banner of FringeNYC, my expectations for seeing the unique, different, and maybe even odd, are high. Aware that not all 197 productions in this year's festival will be "great theatre," I at least hope to have my notions of live performance challenged in one way or another. Feed the Monster, playing now as part of the 2010 Fringe Festival, does nothing of the sort. It is a safe, vanilla solo show that, in spite of a mostly charming performance by Stephanie Ehrlich, fails to make for an exciting night of theatre.
For Feed the Monster, the audience is transported back to 1985. It is the final night of the fictitious, yet legendary, nightclub, The Village Vestibule. Once a haven for the New York counter culture and the great folk singers of the '60s, the Vestibule is now closing. Ehrlich's character, singer Rita Emerson, was artistically born on the Vestibule stage, which is what brings her back after many years away. Recounting her story from Jewish girl in Brighton Beach to Left Coast rock goddess and back, Emerson takes this last Vestibule audience on a cautionary journey of "sex, jugs, and rock n' roll." The program's words, not mine.
Told through both Ehrlich's singing and text, the story of Emerson's attempt to find personal acceptance never delves very deep, forcing Feed to fall short of being the engrossing character study it wants to be. Most of Rita's personal struggles rest upon her own ugly duckling syndrome, a trait I found difficult to grasp as Ehrlich is neither heavyset nor unattractive. As it was she who wrote Feed the Monster, I found it distracting that Ehrlich created a character for herself she doesn't physically resemble in the least.
Ehrlich can be quite funny at times, and has a gift for silly voices, even if they're mostly in the same Brooklyn accent we've been hearing for decades now. Her singing voice is also strong, but got lost in the poor sound and mostly bland song list.
In spite of a story that traverses across three of our nation's wildest decades, Feed the Monster couldn't feel safer. I came looking for a meal, but the monster only fed me a snack.