August 13, 2004





'Eat Me' leaves viewer brutalized


Rapists have their reasons, certainly, but their victims experience their crime as a senseless, debasing assault. Jacqueline Wright's savage play "Eat Me" seems designed to inflict a similar assault on audiences, exploring the psychology of abuse on a skin-crawlingly intimate scale.


Much of the play is a brutal scrimmage between a suicidal waif, Tommy (Wright), and a thuggish intruder, Bob (David Ojalvo), amid the scummy detritus of Tommy's wood-paneled home (set by Barbara Lempel). A butcher knife, a belt, and Bob's fists are the weapons of choice, and the graphic humiliations he inflicts on her go from bad to much, much worse. "You throw up, you eat it," is typical Bob's threats, which are relentlessly laced with a "b" word that's not "baby."


When Tommy staggers up after a bloody beating and turns the tables on her attacker, the play attains a pitch-black comic tone. Abuse is such old hat to poor Tommy that she's able to critique Bob's skills. "You call that rape?" she asks witheringly.


Incredibly, Bob crumbles under this verbal counterattack, and "Eat Me" becomes a bathetic bonding play between two damaged souls. The always compelling Wright delivers Tommy's monologues with cracked grace, but Ojalvo skids and burns on his character's puzzlingly inward journey. As Bob's sidekick, Tony Forkush supplies a few moments of over-the-top psychopathy.


Though Chris Fields' harsh, unblinking direction suits Wright's vision, no one involved has made the case for sharing this dreary vision with us.

--Rob Kendt


"Eat Me," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Through Aug. 20. $15. (323) 856-8611. Running time: 75 minutes.