Weird, Wild And Wonderful- “The Feast” Opens St. Louis Actors’ Studio Eleventh Season

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Spencer Sickmann watches as Jennifer Theby-Quinn admires his masterpiece in “The Feast” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: Patrick Huber

Bringing bathroom humor to a whole new level, “The Feast” offers a psychological study with outrageous humor and it’s all happening at St. Louis Actors’ Studio featuring- what else- three superb actors. And it’s written by a local young man, Cory Finley, who is a graduate of John Burroughs High School (answering the ultimate St. Louis query).

In the span of 70 minutes we see a young couple on the verge of a break up, a series of men who enter their lives- all looking very much like the same man- and a mental break down of gargantuan proportions. At the center of it all is an on stage toilet that appears to be talking to someone in grunts, groans and guttural cries for help- or maybe something else.

Spencer Sickmann is Matt- a struggling artist who is on the brink of madness due to the noises from his toilet who then eventually explores the “underworld” secrets that the toilet seems to draw him into. His girlfriend, Anna, is the wonderful Jennifer Theby-Quinn who may be fed up with his obsession or perhaps driving him further into it. Both actors have very expressive faces that convey a wide range of emotions. Mr. Sickmann combines the good (but neurotic) looks of Jake Gyllenhaal with the rubber-faced look of the old comedian Charlie Callas. Ms. Theby-Quinn is delightful even as she delivers the shocking news that she’s had an affair. The two are like oil and water that somehow combine to make a satisfying comedic/battling couple.

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Ryan Scott Foizey as the plumber and Spencer Sickmann as Matt have an interesting encounter during the St. Louis Actors’ Studio production of “The Feast.” Photo: Patrick Huber

The broad humor of Ryan Scott Foizey has never been more lethal than playing the role of “The Man.” He is, indeed, several men. Playing a plumber who finds nothing unusual about the toilet and then Matt’s psychiatrist who drops hints that he is well aware of the underworld secrets of the toilet people who Matt has seen- then quickly changes his tune. Are we privy to Matt’s madness at this point or is the doctor playing tricks? Next he becomes Matt’s best friend who also slips into a scenario of how the underworld are at odds with Matt because he has painted a masterpiece that exposes their “secret life. And finally he becomes the man, Connor,  with whom Anna is having the affair. It’s a remarkable performance as you recognize Mr. Foizey- but you truly believe he, with a change of glasses and costumes, becomes the embodiment of each character.

This whole, wild world draws you in with the brilliant direction of John Pierson- himself chair of the Theatre, Speech and Dance department of the playwright’s alma mater. With a great eye for the absurd combined with the ability to make the strange world seem oh, so normal. He has brought outstanding performances from all three actors who all share the same tongue-in-cheek, wide-eyed believability.

Patrick Huber’s set and lights are perfect showing off the Brooklyn apartment and turning the focal point toilet into an almost ominous fourth character with lights and the glorious sounds it emits thanks to John Pierson’s scary yet funny creaks and groans. Carla Landis Evans has designed the perfect costumes including Matt’s opening wardrobe featuring a rose, silk robe, the business chic of Anna and then the transition of The Man’s four major characters.

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Spencer Sickmann as Matt contemplates his life and his toilet during the St. Louis Actors’ Studio production of “The Feast.” Photo: Patrick Huber

“The Feast” is a laugh out loud script that features an even funnier finale which may surprise. The twists and turns lead you to the ending which may be interpreted in several different ways. I thought it was obvious when I first thought about it and then I found myself thinking of several other scenarios. Let’s face it, you’re gonna love “The Feast.” It plays at St. Louis Actors’ Studio at Gaslight on Boyle through October 8th. Give them a call at 314-458-2978 for more information and how to get season tickets.

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