It can be a comfort, distraction — or even obsession. It can soothe your nerves or cause more anxiety, give sustenance or provide an empty promise of fulfilment.
The psychology around food is complicated and contradictory, as shown in the new locally-written play Oral Fixations, which will be premiered by Ignition Theatre starting on Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Scott Block in Red Deer.
The play by Leslie Greentree and Blaine Newton touches on everything from kids’ snack preferences and nutritional nightmares, to binge eating and other disorders. “It’s funny and gut-wrenching and sad,” said director Matt Grue.
But the more weight that gets heaped on edible fare in the production, the more audience members will realize Oral Fixations isn’t really about food at all.
It’s about people and relationships, say the Red Deer playwrights.
Newton and Greentree started looking at food from different angles after noticing the way consumables are often used as a connector, bringing folks together at social gatherings.
They soon realized that kind of spread can have a less amiable flip side — it can also tear people apart when resentful relatives, who were guilted into attending family occasions, start bickering over the dinner table.
“Food is about love — except when it’s about revenge or competition, cold comfort or loss,” said Newton.
The five-actor play was written over the last three years, with guidance from the Scripts at Work program and Ignition Theatre.
It will take the audience through numerous short scenes and monologues that examine at how food cravings mask many subtexts.
“I’d be shocked if people in the audience didn’t find something they could personally latch on to,” said Grue, who’s involvement with Oral Fixations started before he was even thinking about resurrecting Ignition Theatre.
Greentree and Newton approached him about 18 months ago to ask if he would look at their new script with the idea of eventually staging the play. “We went through a workshopping process, where we were rewriting the script,” said Grue.
Acquaintances eventually heard about the project and began asking whether this meant Ignition Theatre would be returning after an absence of a couple of seasons. Grue and his partner Stephanie Ridge gradually began thinking about starting up their local professional theatre company again — and got excited about the idea.
A two-play comeback season is now planned for Ignition, which will also present The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams as a co-production with Prime Stock Theatre next spring.
And Grue said the company intends to stick around to stage other original plays in future in support of local playwrights.
Oral Fixations became the first playwriting experience for Greentree, who’s a poet and short-story writer. While her life partner, Newton, has written previous plays, he’s never co-authored one before with Greentree.
But the two describe their joint project as an enjoyable endeavour, in which ideas often flowed while doing fun things — such as vacationing in Maui a few years ago.
“We would do some writing, sit in the ocean for a while, have some mai tais — it was an absolute ball,” Greentree recalled.
The playwrights are thrilled that Grue’s innovative theatre company is staging Oral Fixations. “We’ve been huge fans of Matt and Steph for years,” said Greentree, who hopes audience members will leave the Scott Block with plenty to think about after watching the play.
“I hope people will go out later for a glass of wine, and say ‘that part was just like me,’ or “I remember when my mother once did …’ or ‘when my friend did. …’ ”
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. shows that run Oct. 9 to 11 and 14 to 18 are $27 ($23 students/seniors) from www.ignitiontheatre.ca (all Tuesday night tickets are $20).