Eat the Runt – How to Lose a Job in 10 Seconds
There comes a time during every job interview where I begin to fantasize. It’s a high-pressure situation, big stakes, deadly formal. There are rules and regulations, where to sit, how hard to shake, etc., etc. Added to magically sweat boxed equation is the fact that I have an active imagination, so, at some point, I envision throwing myself through the plate glass window or telling the interviewer that my favorite book is porn or wondering what this mild-mannered fifty-year old man in glasses is like in bed. Avery Crozier’s Eat the Runt takes this mind dalliance to its’ headfucked conclusion as an interviewee named Merritt (Daniel Johnston on the night that I attended -more on this gimmicky gimmick in a second), arrives at a white-boned, projection-heavy moderrrrn art museum (design by Jeff Harrison) to put his hat in the ring for some godforsaken grant writing job. Along the way, Merritt begins to use a little more than the standard “wear a red tie and sit up straight” job hunting technique. In fact, he employs the following on the “round robin” (ughhhhhhh) style review panel, one by one: graphic medical sob stories, overt sexual provocation, blackmail, allegations of racism, and then, to top it all off, quoting from the goddamned Fountainhead. Why, it’s almost like Merritt doesn’t even want this job, right? And one look at the freaks interviewing him might give you a little inclination about why that might be. There’s Royce (Scott Lichtor), the director of development, whose sexual energy is such that he might start making passes at the sofas, Hollis (Terri Laurino) a modern art curator who loathes modern art, director Pinky (Noah Bird), who is def taking a ride on the cocaine train, and more. The second act brings a surprise! mistaken identity revelation in the form of NEW Merritt (Gabrielle Amaro) who gets, if possible, even weirder than the first one, at one point doing a Zuhl-like dance right on the fucking conference table. Mmmhmm, now, about that gimmick. Eat the Runt has a different cast every night, one that the audience votes in (I wasn’t there for this portion of the event, so I’m not exactly sure how this voting process goes). So, sometimes an actor plays one part, sometimes another. I think that this is probably much more fun and exciting for the cast than for the audience (who, after all, pretty much still takes everything at face value, it’s not like you’re really, really going to come back eight times), with the slight exception that it’s mildly fun to imagine how the scenes would change if different actors were involved. For instance, that racist allegation bit involved a white guy accusing another white guy of discrimination, the whole thing would play a lot differently if either of the actors were black. Crozier calls this “meta-theatre, a play about acting” but I found it to be a play about watching people acting and more of an exercise than a satisfying product. But maybe that’s okay, especially in a school setting. And, luckily, these puppies are talented enough and direction by S.G. Kramer secure enough that even without the light up tits (Gypsy reference, y’all) the show is still hella amusing and even downright witty at times. The petty politics and nonprofit gossip felt right-on to me – I’ve been in the field for many years now and actually just said the sentence: “Oh, you know Group Sales, they all drink like fish”. And, of course, the skewering of pretentious art nerds will never not be delicious. The ensemble is just great, even though the characters are kind of necessarily single noted. I especially fancied Noah Bird with his interesting hair and slightly distant frustration and Amaro, who is just the right kind of sly.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Eat the Run might be a little more of an amusing actor’s resume builder than a fully realized concept, but that’s okay. It’s real engaging, pretty clever, definitely modern. The team pull their weight, the end is a hoot and the direction is tight as a drum. And if you’re about to ask “Yeah, but is worth hefting my ass all the way over to Howard County?” imma roll my eyes at you before I answer: “Yes. Yes it is”.
Running at Howard Community College until May 3rd
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