Oysters? “A loogie on a half shell.” Cornish game hen? “Midget poultry.” Flan? “Sounds like what happens when you try to keep it down.” So claims the exasperated Graham (Devin Scott) in one of the many satirical monologues that make up Nancy Nufer’s Food Confessions. More comedy than confessional, the show strings together a series of witty vignettes, all of which center on eating. From the pasta-obsessed Colby (Kara Revel), who repeatedly monopolizes 12-step meetings with her mac-and-cheese militancy, to Grape-Nuts denouncer Louie (Robert Lesser) and anti-foodie Caesar (Dan Gunther), everyone’s got a bone to pick. Playwright Nufer takes a crack at everything from salad bars to vegans to probiotic yogurt and also brings her facial plasticity and impeccable comic timing to roles including repressed housewife Hazel and Hollywood bygone Ginger.
Thanks to a pop art–inspired set by Thomas S. Giamario that’s part bar, part diner, and part kitchen, there’s no need for scene changes. Everyone stays onstage, including musical director Douglas Clegg on keyboard. Each member of this cast of five plays at least three characters — a serious challenge given the lack of costume changes — and they pull it off admirably. Among the most successful and dramatic of these shifts is Scott’s metamorphosis from swaggering Bronx boy Chip to uptight nerd Eggbert.
Food Confessions is dense with one-liners — there’s no question Nufer knows how to earn a laugh. She also acknowledges the metaphorical nature of meals, touching on sex and desire, nurturing, and upper-middle-class America’s increasingly neurotic eating habits (“Don’t worry, bee pollen” and “For god’s sake, put down the gluten”). What the show doesn’t do is use these universal themes to launch into deep or unexpected territory. There are hints in this direction: Lesser starts into a wonderfully strange and unsettling speech as a retired Navy SEAL who reads cookbooks “to keep the dark thoughts at bay.” And as Olive, Nufer reflects on her childlessness and watches her husband compensate by spending a small fortune on dry cat food for the backyard wildlife. But Nufer pulls back fast from these meatier moments, relying instead on the light and frothy.