Whoever said art is dead would be confused by "The Famished," a new play written and directed by Max Posner '11 and the first to be staged in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. "The Famished" is a testament to the enthusiasm and excitement which a young playwright and cast can offer.
Set entirely in a corporate office, the play follows a worker named Jefferson (Zach Segel '13). Upon learning his home is infested with bedbugs, Jefferson sleeps in the office each night after the other workers leave. Each day, he is bombarded by criticism and mired in competition from his long-time friend and coworker, Ryan (Sam Alper '11.5), a devious character who munches on the leftover food of workers when they get fired from the company. When the two men learn that the head position will soon be available, the relationship becomes fraught with tension and confrontation.
"I've been writing the play for two and a half years," Posner said. "I was interested initially in the rhythm of how men talk to each other."
Segel said the most difficult aspect of playing Jefferson was being on stage for the entire time. "This is the first outright lead (I've had)," said Segel, who has previously appeared in five plays at the University.
Segel's performance was extremely convincing, and his best moments were in his fantastically awkward conversations with his co-worker and love-interest Rebecca (Leah Cogan '12). His nervous bumbling and stammering antics when he talks to her create an air of tension that everyone in the audience can feel, made all the more tangible by Cogan's excellent reciprocation.
Cogan's performance as a beautiful young office worker who finds something endearing in Jefferson is exciting to watch, and she convincingly conveys Rebecca's frustration and anxiety when the relationship falls into tumult.
Another notable performance comes from Lily Mathews '12 as Ryan's wife Amy, who approaches her role with a ferocious voice and a penetrating stare towards the audience. Mathews described the experience of performing a new play as an exploratory process, adding that "The Famished" focuses on the different levels of relationship.
The script is quick-witted and often snarky. "I hope it's funny," Posner said. "It's also very dark." The dialogue supports the plot well, and there is little drag.
The set is wisely designed to take full use of the beautiful and state-of-the-art theater in the Granoff Center. The foreground is set up like the break room of an office, with the rest of the stage comprised of cubicles raised on different levels. Six other employee characters are in full sight of the audience as they work silently amidst the conversations between principals. These actors create a busy work atmosphere which never detracts from the dialogue or plot.
"In a world where people either say way too much or way too little, ‘The Famished' seeks to investigate the rhythms of failures," Posner wrote in the program notes. Posner's investigation manages to find humor, heartbreak and humanity amidst sterile and gray cubicles.
Sharp script, sharp set and heartfelt acting.