The question: Is it a descent in to madness or are demons rising from the sewer?
According to one critical theory, terror is a rational fear, but horror defies analysis. Terror threatens with guillotines and explosive vests. This fear is a known quantity, an evil calculus within the bounds of reason and negotiation. Do what we want, or we do this to you. But horror is an unknown quantity, irrational and non-negotiable. That’s far more fearful.
The greatest horrors of all dwell in the terra incognita of the human mind. That zone beyond the boundaries of what’s been mapped. The no man’s land marked, “Here Be Monsters.”
Rod Serling had a name for this territory: “The Twilight Zone.” Jordan Peele continues to explore that zone in film and television. Recent theatrical excursions include Tracy Letts’ “Bug” and Cory Finley’s “The Feast,” now playing at The Urbanite.
Finley plumbs the depths of the human psyche. But the playwright’s horror show starts off in a happy domestic scene. Meet Matt (Gregory Boover) and Anna (Clio Contogenis), a young couple living together. What could possibly go wrong?
In a horrific twist that would make the Coen Brothers cringe, malign creatures start calling out to Matt from the toilet. They invite him to come down and join them in the sewers. For a feast.
We spoke to director Brendan Ragan and the cast members about what’s really going down.
Casey Murphy fills in for all the other characters (horrific or not) besides Anna and Matt. “I don’t see the play as a puzzle to be solved,” he says. “It’s a glimpse into Matt’s psyche, and I take that as-is. I also love how sparse the script is. It tells the story in the most streamlined way possible. There’s nothing flabby about it. And, as weird and creepy as it is, it’s also very, very funny.”
In Contogenis’ view, the play’s magical-realist elements flow seamlessly with its granular portrait of real life. “You think we’re a happy couple at first,” she says. “Then you start to see there’s a lot brewing beneath the surface — no pun intended.”
As Ragan sees it, the play’s horror may be real or hallucinatory, but it’s horror any way you look at it.
“If the voices are in Matt’s mind, he’s losing his mind,” he says. “If the voices are real, demonic beings are trying to possess him. Matt’s in for the fight of his life either way.”
But there’s also an apparent upside to this deviltry. Boover notes that, “My character is a visual artist. Matt’s going through hell, but he creates some of the best work of his life, although it’s very disturbing.”
Matt’s artistic leap is a devil’s bargain. According to Ragan, that’s the play’s key point.
“The voices are luring Matt to an act of self-destruction,” he says. “Matt can’t explain them or understand them. But whatever they are, he has to resist them if he wants to go on living.”