Though opening night was dark and dreary inside UMBC’s Proscenium Theatre, students, faculty and families alike were warmed and enchanted by the uncanny happenings in Susan McCully’s Voracious. Outrageous French chefs, narcissistic food critics and a waiter with a degree in theatre were only a few of the delightful and memorable cast of characters that graced the scene in this witty and fast-paced play.
The play was set in a cozy French bistro, the Chez Rachel. The entire set was built in a style reminiscent of a high-class European restaurant, with brick walls, a fancy bar and tables set with wine glasses and candles. Warm lighting filled the stage, offering an inviting atmosphere to the small dining area.
The play takes place over the course of a single night in which the French chef, Jean-Jacques (played by a hilarious and energetic Brielle Levenberg), is desperate to impress a food critic who gave him a three-and-a-half-star rating several months earlier. With the assistance of his slightly incompetent staff, a whole lot of shouting and some soul-searching moments, he is able to come to terms with what it means to be rated only three-and-a-half-stars. He also is able to cook a meal that brings the right balance back into the Chez Rachel bistro. Throughout these shenanigans, a slew of other characters are learning more about themselves as well and through the course of many breakups and quite a lot of miscommunication, each character is able to find their happy ending.
The play was nothing if not energetic. There were a lot of things happening on stage, which could be distracting at times, but overall, that provided a level of authenticity to the entire scene. Constantly consumed with their characters, the actors were moving and interacting with one another, always providing the audience with something to look at.
Performances by Mary Beth Kerley, Alex Reeves, Savannah Chamberlain and Chaz Atkinson had the audience roaring with laughter, while some more subtle performances from Joey Bridges and Keri Eastridge provided a nice contrast from the otherwise loud and exaggerated ensemble. A considerable portion of the second act consisted of a pig defying death and befriending the staff of the restaurant, effectively stealing the show from the rest of the actors in the process. Perhaps even more impressive was the subtle puppetry that went along with it.
The entire show seemed to go off without a hitch. The lighting was consistent, the dialogue was witty and the actors gave solid performances throughout. Much like the dishes produced by Jean-Jacques in the play itself, each element of the stage design blended together perfectly to bring the play to life.