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STAGE REVIEW : ‘Appetite': Hungering for Deep Answers

When Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, they had to leave the Garden of Eden. But at least their world expanded.

That wouldn’t happen nowadays, suggests David Michael Erickson in his “Appetite,” at the Cast-at-the-Circle. If we continue catering to our basest hungers and impulses, the world will shrink.

The world of the three characters in “Appetite” has already shrunk to one room in an abandoned cafe, somewhere in the Southwestern desert. Outside, an endless blizzard howls, and the snow is suspiciously gray.

The characters speculate on the possibilities: perhaps a volcano exploded, perhaps a meteor fell. No one mentions nuclear winter. But someone does point out that the silo is empty. Whether that silo housed grain or missiles is left unclear.

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It’s not the only thing that’s left unclear. Occasionally the play’s question marks seem merely obtuse: Why, for example, does a character suddenly leave the stage near the end of the play?

But generally the unclear moments are weighted with suggestions of meaning that aren’t explicitly stated. In other words, what you see is not all of what you get. This play has depth--not only in the scope of its concerns, but also in the way they are articulated.

Some of the symbolism might seem obvious, in retrospect, but it isn’t obtrusive in the theater. Roger (Peder Melhuse) and Adele (Susan Mackin) may be the last descendants of Adam and Eve, yet they still have to cope with a “snake,” a drifter named Brian (Dean Coleman). There is even some byplay with an apple, though Brian’s real specialty is inducing the impressionable Roger to eat dirt.

Dirt’s ability to fill your stomach will help you see how bad off you are, claims Brian.

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Brian’s philosophy of life essentially boils down to looking out for No. 1. Roger has higher goals, or thinks he does; he plans to join the space program as a driver on the shuttle. Adele knows better, yet as the play opens she still isn’t willing to sink to the level of the serpent.

Director Anne Drecktrah and her cast do justice to most of Erickson’s intriguing dialogue, and their performance Friday was remarkably taut, especially considering that the audience wasn’t much bigger than the cast.

Mackin hits the right melancholic notes, Melhuse has Roger’s bluster down pat (though he might turn up the desperation level slightly), and Coleman is a seductive snake in the snow. They deserve bigger audiences, as does Erickson’s play.

Mike Chapman’s set is appropriately dreary, and the sound design, by Gary Irvine and Rod Lowe, makes a vital contribution to the play’s foreboding atmosphere.

At 800 N. El Centro Ave., tonight and Dec. 2-4, 6-8, 16-18, at 8 p.m. except for Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets: $12-$15; (213) 462-0265.


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