Review: “Feast of My Heart”

(This review was written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)

December tends to be a time of reflection and giving. It can also bring out the best and the worst in people. So a performance dedicated to compassion seems particularly fitting for this time of year.

“Feast of my Heart,” playing through Saturday at Salvage Vanguard Theater, interrogates what it means to engage in an act of compassion.

The one-man show, deftly performed by Jason Phelps, features eight short pieces written and directed by more than a dozen contemporary theater artists. The short pieces range from narrative monologue to video installation to performance art and will (understandably) suit some tastes more than others.

With pieces from playwrights such as Lisa D’Amour, Zell Miller, and Kirk Lynn, the show offers an array of theatrical styles from talented artists. And with each piece guided by a different director (such as Jenny Larson, Shawn Sides, and Ken Webster), we witness a panoply of tone and movement.

Stephen Pruitt’s lovely set design, paired with Natalie George’s gorgeous saturated lighting, creates a beautiful and lively backdrop for Phelps’ performances.

The first piece, “No Direction, Only Action” by Lisa D’Amour, starts us off slowly and intriguingly. Phelps seems to silently fill himself with joy that he wishes to share with the audience. He chants a sort of song. He does a couple of dances. Then we’re transported elsewhere in the shift to the next piece and we have to quickly assimilate a new world of the play just when we were getting the hang of the last one.

This pattern continues as we move through the eight pieces of the show, and I wish I had felt more sense of continuity. Some of the pieces are narratives or monologues, while others feel like something you might call a choreopoem.

Abstract art works for a lot of people. Museums are filled with Rothko’s and Pollock’s work, and I respect the aesthetic preferences of those that enjoy such work — I’m just not one of them.

Similarly, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the many artists involved in “Feast of My Heart,” and I can appreciate and honor the work that they’ve done, even if I can’t say I enjoyed all that much of it.

Taken individually, the pieces likely have a lot to offer, but pressed together as they are, there was simply too much high concept to wrap my head around.

“Feast of My Heart” continues through Sat. at Salvage Vanguard Theater. www.salvagevanguard.org


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