The show is called "Feast" and it is a feast, indeed.
Isabel Nelson is the lone actor, unless you count the efficient servers who dish out three courses before and during "Feast," and it's set in a mead hall presided over by the unnamed mother of Grendel, who was murdered by Beowulf in the English poem named for the killer.
Nelson's bold, confident performance is in full command of "Feast," starting when she launches her hosting duties by entering on all fours, growling, in a little black dress. Picture a chirpy/monstrous cross between Rachael Ray and Lady Macbeth. As she grapples with the death of her son, our host is alternately ferocious, bemused, petulant, seductive, puzzled and triumphant.
Here are seven things to expect at this thrillingly unconventional play:
- Arrive before the 6:30 dinner start time. You'll need to check in and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
- The "mead hall," a banquet room that's part of the Black Forest Inn (located to the east of the regular Black Forest entrance), seats about 50. On opening night, about 40 of us were seated for dinner at eight tables on three sides of a small performance space, with a dozen others arriving just for the show, as plates were being cleared. Accompanied by old music (on opening night, it was three-piece band Sycamore Gap), dinner is hearty: soup; chicken paprikash, pork ribs or vegetable pot pie; and a dessert cookie that's integrated into the show.
- Walking Shadow Theatre does a dandy job of making "Feast" feel like an event. The food is not just an add-on. It's integral to the experience since Nelson's character has invited us to a feast. Those of us in the audience gorging ourselves figure into the themes of Megan Gogerty's rhythmic, provocative play, which questions why there are haves and have-nots and which interrogates who gets to tell the stories history remembers (hint: winners and murderers, usually dudes).
- "At the moment of death, that which sustains us devours us," says the host, noting that this dichotomy applies to certain types of bacteria and, possibly, our recent pandemic. She talks about death a lot, and even death by poisoning, but assures us she has not poisoned us. After we've already eaten.
- Nelson integrates a few audience members into the performance, in a way that makes "Feast" feel both dangerous and personal, but it's not an audience-participation show. If you don't want to interact with her, don't sit next to the stage.
- Although we're supposedly in a mead hall, I didn't see mead on the drinks menu. There are a couple of honey-based beverages, though.
- Tips are included in the ticket price but more can be left for extra service.
Who: By Megan Gogerty. Directed by Allison Vincent.
When: 6:30 p.m. dinner; 7:30 p.m. show, Fri.-Sat., Mon. Ends April 1. (Tickets also available for "Beowulf," which precedes some performances.)
Where: Black Forest Inn, 1 E. 26th St., Mpls.
Protocol: Vaccination required.
Tickets: $20-$30 for show only. $50-$60 for dinner and show, walkingshadow.org.