“You are what you eat.”
Who came up with that phrase anyway? It’s an old cliché, but it’s explored in new ways in the production Milk-N-Honey, a production by the LightBox and Food Theater Project.
Written by Madeleine George, Bray Poor, C. Andrew Bauer, Shawn Fagan and Ellen Beckerman, Milk-N-Honey is an unconventional performance – a fusion of theatre and multimedia, featuring performers who interact with the audience as well as performing the actual show. The performance space is starkly bare, bordered with movable carts that are stacked with food, and lights and words are flashed on the walls of the space as the scenes are acted out.
The stories vary from an irate grocery store employee to an illegal immigrant who spends his days picking tomatoes to a young woman at a grocery store begins a romance with another employee who, she later learns, gives the trash from the store to some friendly Dumpster Divers to who is fixated on the idea of capturing the taste of light.
The most captivating story is that of a woman who, after learning she has diabetes, attempts to shop for groceries that do not contain any sugar or carbohydrates. One by one she pulls items from the shelf and reads the nutrition information as the list of ingredients are flashed on the wall behind her for the audience to read. The shelf is almost empty when she finally finds a can of black beans. Later, when she cannot bring herself to tell her father about her disease, he berates her for cooking differently than her mother did.
Milk-N-Honey touches on various aspects of food and eating, but it is the consciousness of consumption that permeates the show the most. A particularly effective scene takes place when a three people are watching a video of a cow being slaughtered and they frequently rewind it to watch the same moment over and over. It sounds crude and even cruel, but it is grotesquely fascinating.
Another prominent theme of the show is the emotional aspects of food and eating; consumption somehow equates happiness for many, and certain foods mean that people care. Early in the show, the woman who is later diagnosed with diabetes talks about the honey buns that her mother used to buy her as a child and that she still eats as a grown up, saying, “It tastes like love.”
The scenes are interesting and extremely applicable, but it is the performances that truly drive the show. Each of the actors is extremely talented and fully fleshes out the characters to create a show that is vivid and vibrant, when it otherwise might (no pun intended) stale or flat.