I can’t really add that much to Susie Haubenstock’s review of “Food, Clothing, Shelter," playing only a couple more times at the Firehouse. I agree with essentially every word, including the not-quite-successful aerialist interlude and the call-outs to Keisha Wallace, Kylie Clark and Donna Marie Miller for their great performances.
- While I agree with Susie’s call-outs, I would save my greatest praise for Rebecca Turner. Her Gloria, the hotel proprietress, seems clearly meant to be what you would call “spectrumy:” she speaks way too honestly and acts awkwardly obtuse in the manner of human interaction. Turner disappears completely into this character, never making her a caricature, projecting a heartbreaking sincerity. The way both Turner’s character and Miller’s – who is indeed fabulous in her role – reveal themselves to each other is a subtle wonder to watch.
- Bo Wilson’s writing, particularly in that last scene, has to be recognized for its nicely attenuated sense of interpersonal interaction. Each scene in the play involves people who want something running up against others who have to decide whether they want to give anything up. That Bo has formulated three dramatically different variations on that basic power dynamic is a testament to his creativity.
- A nice dovetail of smart writing with a fine performance is in the first scene between Frank Creasy’s butcher and Kirk Morton’s circus manager. Creasy is meant to be a simple townsperson but Wilson doesn’t write him as a rube and Creasy doesn’t overplay him as being either too dull or too sharp. There is not a hint of condescension in the character which makes for a stronger scene. (That condescension is left for the more closeminded townspeople – handy hyperbolic bigots that provide the needed “oh yeah, small town xenophobia!” backdrop to the action.)
- My favorite part of the second scene – besides the strong performances – was that the two characters seemed completely genuine to me. Foster’s Izzy was bigger than life but in a way that made complete sense, particularly given the short soliloquy he delivers about the unchanged being fascinated by watching the changed (the most, maybe only, successful one of those interludes). And Wallace’s Bess understands the racial dynamics of the town in a way Izzy never will. The resolution of the scene is a bit broad and doesn’t totally ring true but everything else seemed to me to be just right.
In the end, “Food, Clothing, Shelter” is an ambitious production about relatively small stories. In some plays, it can seem a waste of time to linger on minor interplay that doesn’t have broader consequences in the world. But Wilson and Bassin have created an engrossing tale where small doesn’t equal inconsequential. In fact, as made plain in the title, such simple interactions often involve the core necessities of life. What could be more important than that?