IOWA CITY — Dramatist Megan Gogerty said she set out to write the opposite of funny Megan Gogerty with her new one-woman fear fest, “Feast.”
It’s a horror story, and she’s not. She plays an immortal figure, and she’s not. Her character is dispassionate at first, and she’s not.
And yet, what she’s written is an allegory for mothers, which she is.
Mother Earth, mother ship, military mother, mortal mother, immortal mother. All are rolled into a character that begins as a casual observer of life on this planet, until something so heinous, so personal pierces her armor of indifference and awakens the inner dragon that pulses through every mother’s heart.
She is everywoman and yet, no woman.
She thunders, she roars, she demurs, she challenges, she dares. She’s daring, and her piece is challenging.
Those who RSVP to this feast for the mind, onstage at Riverside Theatre through Nov. 10, will leave hungry for more. More group discussion, more intimate conversation in the quest to embrace and puzzle out the thoughts swirling through their core long after the applause dies.
It’s political, it’s apolitical, it’s grieving, it’s mourning and always, it’s moving.
This character with no name invites humans to gather around her elegant dining table — with eight guests seated at two dinner tables and the rest partaking of her main course discourse from theater seats on both sides of the playing space.
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Chris Rich’s brilliant set design further excavates the front of the stage that he stripped away for the summer production of “Men on Boats.” So the dinner tables are front and center, with pulpit-like spaces on either side for Gogerty to mine as she weaves her way among her guests, making her most visceral points by jumping atop various surfaces and snaking her way through the aisles.
The elegant facade is enhanced by six chandeliers hanging above the tables which are set with china, crystal, silver and linens. A meal is served in several courses, and Friday’s (10/25) opening night diners seemed reluctant to eat. Is it real food or a prop? It seems designed to keep the guests wary and nervously on edge. Everyone else will feel that way, too, as the purpose for the gathering unfolds.
Dressed in formal fashion, she whirls in breathless, somewhat astonished to see guests actually heeded her call. “Behold! I have arrived,” she announces, cocking her head to one side in a quirky, jerky fashion. “There are too many of you. Also, I don’t eat anymore.”
The hostess, who created a body out of clay, so as not to alarm her guests with her otherworldly form, has wisdom to impart on the tiny people who have invaded the planet and are marching toward their apocalypse.
She also needs to right the wrongs committed by our ancestors, but assures her audiences, “I do not blame you for the crimes of your fathers anymore.” Then she launches into a bloody description of the mayhem they have wreaked, revealing the deepest sorrows of her heart.
Saffron Henke, Gogerty’s frequent play-launching collaborator, has directed the Iowa City playwright/actress exquisitely through this journey of fury, catharsis and self-discovery.
Gogerty’s energy is fierce and astounding. She is a force of nature with a voice that thunders through the layers humans have piled upon themselves.
“They call me a monster, but I have a heart,” she declares, and by the end of the wild ride through love, loss, humanity and inhumanity, that heart is beating more purely.
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• What: World premiere: “Feast.” by Megan Gogerty
• Where: Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City
• When: To Nov. 10; 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
• Tickets: $30 adults, $28 ages 60 and over and 30 and under, $24 veterans, military and immediate family, $10 students kindergarten through college; Riverside Theatre Box Office, (319) 338-7672 or riversidetheatre.org/feast
• Artist’s website: megangogerty.com