Small Bites: A Smorgasbord of One-Act Comedies
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 16, 2010
Without a doubt, food affects our lives in many ways. Far beyond nourishing our bodies, it brings us together on occasions of fests and family. It provides the comfort we seek in knowing where we came from and offers a basic initiation into other cultures. I enjoy everything there is to enjoy about food—eating it, cooking it, even shopping for it—and I also enjoyed Tribe Productions' "Smorgasbord of One Act Comedies."
As the subtitle implies, Small Bites is a series of eight short plays all about food and the various ways it affects our lives. The first play, A Catered Affair, has a very clever premise that I don't want to give away here but suffice to say that this affair must be catered just right. The next play, Decisions, is about a man who cannot make the simple choice between chicken and prime rib on a wedding invitation. This play is revisited twice throughout the program, finding the man first in a restaurant and then at the wedding reception, where his inability to be decisive finally catches up with him. Next is Mama Marie's, in which we are given a psycho CEO being overly defensive about her Italian food company's legitimacy. The second half of the show starts with Grape Jelly, which is a bit longer than any of the others and that gives this story a nice arc. A young couple discovers that grape jelly has mysteriously disappeared from their grocer's shelves and on their journey to learn what happened they become grape jelly missionaries compelled to "go forth and spread the jelly." The next play, All You Can Eat, is an exploration of the game of eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Done as a monologue, we have a man stricken with BPH—"Buffet Performance Anxiety"—as he stands before the feast, terrified that he won't be able to get a little bit of everything he wants. Finally we have The First Thanksgiving, which is about...well I think you guessed it. Specifically it's about the Pilgrims trying to write an invitation letter to the Indians.
The plays all fit very well together and their progression is set up just right. The program is book-ended by period pieces and the middle is mostly filled with fast-paced comic sketches that each offer up something new and crafty. Writer/director J.C. Svec pens a clever script with lots of great premises. I mean, trying to write the letter to the Indians for the first Thanksgiving is hilarious. And I think I've actually experienced BPH. Still his writing lacks a little bite, if you will, for my taste; but that doesn't mean I didn't laugh several times. I enjoyed the script for its quirks and smart concepts.
The cast of five does a good job with the 20 or so characters. Nicole Cicchella, Sarah Cuneo, Lauren Friezo, Rob Gelberg, and Edward Rosini play everything from Pilgrims to waitresses and they do it all in stride. They have good chemistry. I certainly enjoyed Gelberg's man with BPH monologue.
No one is credited for the costumes but they really worked and I liked all the food-related songs that played between sketches. They are all quite funny but no one is credited for the music either. Small Bites has a small-town feel to it in that way where sometimes little things like credits are overlooked and I liked that about it. It reminds me that the production and all the shows in Planet Connections are for a good cause. And a good cause is a good reason to go see some theatre.