Mike Ellis is going to be a diabetic by the time the curtain drops on the Guild’s newest play, The Food Chain.
The local city planner-cum-actor consumes more junk food per show than some people do in a year.
When he’s not munching on double-stuffed Oreos and chocolate cake rolls, he’s mowing down Jewish pastries.
“We’ve got him in a fat suit,” said visiting Vancouver director Sarah Rodgers.
Despite its name – and the junk food – The Food Chain is not all about eating.
Set in New York, it’s a modern comedy filled with extremely narcissistic, self-absorbed characters.
So when the Guild’s artistic director told Steve McGovern he’d be a perfect fit, he wasn’t sure how to take it.
“I’m flattered that you thought of me and also not flattered that you thought of me,” he said with a laugh.
It’s his theatre debut, but not his first time walking the boards.
McGovern’s performed at the Guild before at comedy nights.
It wasn’t hard to convince him to audition, especially when he found out he had a kissing scene.
“I’m only going to take roles where I get to make-out with cute girls from now on,” he said.
“I did it to rediscover new parts of my inner being,” he added with a grin. “I wanted to be someone else.”
There’s a pause.
“Basically, I didn’t think about it,” he said with a laugh.
“I just wanted to break the monotony of winter in Whitehorse. Instead of hanging out on my couch, I hung out at the Guild.”
Written by Nicky Silver, The Food Chain, opened in Whitehorse a week after Silver finally made it to Broadway with his play The Lyons.
“A friend of mine from New York just went to see it,” said Rodgers.
“So it’s incredibly current.”
The Guild has “its pulse on the cutting edge of theatre,” she said.
Silver is following in the tradition of “comic, dark, gay playwrights” like Oscar Wilde, said Rodgers.
And The Food Chain is basically a sneak peek into his world. “He’s living and breathing this climate,” she said.
Following the lives of a bunch of image- and sex-obsessed Manhattanites and a Jewish matron, The Food Chain is “a love triangle desperately trying to become a love square,” said McGovern.
It’s full of “very witty” dialogue, added Rodgers.
“But there’s also a loneliness to all these characters searching for love, attention, care and companionship.”
With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, everyone has become so self-absorbed, said McGovern. “But we’re still not happy.”
So, although The Food Chain was written in 1995, it’s relevant now, he said.
Rodgers, who is directing a Guild show for the third year in a row, got sick during rehearsals.
But she battled through.
“I started to sound like the Jewish matron,” she said.
The biggest hurdle, however, was the small theatre.
“There were design challenges,” said Rodgers. “We solved them by going conceptual.”
In other words, they got rid of the walls.
“The design is a little abstract,” she said. “It’s very economical and slick.”
Working with the actors was a joy, added Rodgers. “The actors were a perfect fit.”
McGovern’s role doesn’t involve many lines, just some good kissing.
Stephen Dunbar-Edge is playing a gay model.
“Everyone is already very close to their roles,” said Rodgers. Except for Ellis.
Tall and thin, Ellis had to transform into a roly-poly junk food addict.
“His character was extremely far away from who he is,” said Rodgers.
The junk food consumption also threw a wrench into rehearsals.
“I would watch my actor have a sugar drop right before my eyes,” she said.
“His performance is worth the price of admission alone,” added McGovern.
The Food Chain runs Thursday through Saturday until April 28 at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek.
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