On its face, playwright Lia Romeo's Hungry is an unenviable trifecta: an awkward script on an awkward subject for an equally awkward audience. This play, written for high school ages, is peppered with enough coarse dialogue that parents will be edgy about their kids seeing it. That's unfortunate, since Romeo's script lays hands on a series of issues, including eating disorders, teenage sex and the "mean girls" phenomenon, with an enviable directness.
Or at least, up to a point. Its second half shifts into the surreal when the awkward central character, Amy (a winning Emily Ahrens), hallucinates a hunky Minotaur (a mischievous Michael Murray) out of a Greek mythology textbook after she takes too many diet pills. But after their charming first encounter, Hungry jumps the shark, trumping a script already too didactic in a gratuitously gruesome endgame.
And that's regrettable, given the talent of the cast and the innovations in the show's design. In addition to the nuanced performances noted above, under Chip Rodgers' guest direction, Sabrina Aldridge totally sells the girl we love to hate (Amy's frenemy, Bianca), and Mahamantra Das delivers as much authority as the script gives her in the role of Amy's mom. Shannon Clark's imaginative set and light design incorporates video from unlikely locations (including a toilet when Amy unsuccessfully flirts with bulimia). But Rodgers' intricate soundscape, including the real-time digital processing of the Minotaur's voice, lends this intimate production a palpable ambience that's delicate at times, disturbing at others.
In short, Hungry has the right trifecta in its cast, direction and design. It just needs a better script.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Who do you think you are?"