City Paper is not for tourists
Venue: Goethe Institut – Mainstage, 812 7th St. NW
Remaining performances: Wednesday, July 21, at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at 10 p.m.
They Say: In this one-man show, a father, a son, and a French chef search for the perfect meal. The adventure begins in a Chinese restaurant and continues in Sweden, North Korea, and Oklahoma. And you thought you were obsessed with food!
Erin’s Take: I’ll go ahead and say it: Of the seven shows I’ve seen so far at Fringe, ‘Edible Rex’ is by far my favorite. Writer/peformer John Feffer takes what is an inherently extremely challenging theater form—the one-man show—and executes it with aplomb. He embodies three different characters—himself; his father, Melvin Feffer; and the 19th century French chef, and father of the cookbook, Alexis Soyer—and depicts their respective quests for the perfect meal.
The degree to which Feffer inhabits each character—which is to say, fully—is incredibly impressive, especially considering that he is not a professional actor but rather a director at a think tank. He does a fabulous French accent as Soyer and convincingly—and ammusingly—communicates Soyer’s despair at Britons’ simple and uninspired tastes at the Gastronomic Symposium in London in 1851. “Meat, potato, a fizzy drink—that for them is maybe a happy meal,” Soyer laments. I will say that I was a bit confused as to how Soyer’s story fit in with that of Feffer and his father. But he was was so entertaining that in the moment I simply drank in everything he put out onstage, and it wasn’t until afterward that I pondered Soyer’s place.
Feffer truly excels in telling his own and his father’s stories. In his own story, he also takes on the role of a fourth character: his wife, Karin. Karin’s exhausted, exasperated response to his unending quest to find the most authentic restaurant while traveling (“I don’t want a map, I don’t want the concierge pushing me toward his favorite restaurant. Read the freakin’ reviews? No, that would be cheating.”) is priceless.
As his father, Melvin, Feffer adopts a shuffle and a stoop, makes his voice lower and infuses it with a Jersey accent, and embodies a new philosophy toward food. Feffer himself would—and does—travel the world in his search for the elusive, intangible perfect meal. His father is a man of simpler tastes, content with perfecting the humble roast chicken and ending the meal with a chocolate milkshake.
Feffer is a brilliant writer and performer—he’s humorous, transportive, and when the production’s done, you’ll want to go and grab a meal with him. I’d like to offer Feffer one piece of advice: Quit your day job and take this show on the road.
See it: If you’re a foodie, a fan of great storytelling, and/or want to see one of the best shows at Fringe this year.
Skip it: If you’re on a diet or immune to the joys of food.