The future is scary in Jim Lunsford’s Feed, as a woman stands trial for the crime of giving birth without governmental approval.  Now premiering at NoHo Arts, where it was developed in workshop, the Feed in question is not some genetically altered Orwellian food source developed by unscrupulous descendants of Col. Sanders, but instead an electronic video feed being broadcast Big Brother-style to the general population.

It’s a long way from Roe v. Wade, set in an age where the remaining “scavengers after an era of uncontrollable consumption” are sterilized, and procreation regulated by the State.  Sid (Andrea Lockhart), in a battle to be returned to the toddler she conceived after a butchered back alley surgery, is placed in the hands of a world-weary defense lawyer named Cowboy (Robert W. Arbogast) who does all he can do to control her violent outbursts in court, let alone help her understand the severity of her case.


Smug prosecutor Keller (Paul Denniston) is assigned to illuminate the name of the man who performed Sid’s reverse sterilization and access to the underground network that helped her in her quest to pop out her own little Sid Junior.  Coupled with a strangely personal and potentially erotically charged relationship between Cowboy and Keller—one gets the idea that if the defense attorney would succumb to a little casting couching, Keller might lighten up—what Lunsford has created is eerily fascinating and all too possible, unless we all step up and wrestle control from the skewed “leadership” running our country’s current Blue Stately born-again dictatorship.

Under the imaginative direction of James J. Mellon, Feed is a taut, intellectual, crisply focused thriller guaranteed to induce missed sleep for any thinking person.  NoHo Arts has something potentially brilliant; although, after 18 months of workshopping, personally, I would gently suggest Feed could be a true contemporary classic if the playwright and this fiercely dedicated band of artists would be willing to commit to about 18 months more.  Lunsford’s dialogue is literate and often even poetic, but he tends to overwrite, which occasionally leaves this committed band of actors with little place to go beyond making his language work realistically.

It’s an occupational hazard for playwrights (myself included), when creating something potentially meaningful, to want to say everything in their lives they ever wanted to say; sometimes, a first production of a new work can help weed out the verbal excess in the repeated performance of the material.  Many lines repeatedly linking descriptive adjectives (“a select and delicate crop”, “unique and pure,” “rusty and jagged,” “quietly and woefully”) could be infinitely more effective if simplified.  Perhaps this is so clear to me personally because, as they say, we often dislike in other’s work what we don’t like about our own.

Craig Siebels’ striking two-tiered courtroom set is a knockout, as are video images revealing the highlights and atrocities of the 20th century projected above the proscenium throughout the performance, and the cast is uniformly excellent.  The two-character scenes “in chambers” between Arbogast and Denniston are particularly striking, and Janet Fontaine is especially successful in finding a few vulnerable layers of humanity lurking somewhere below the crusty exterior of the tribunal’s by-the-book chief justice.

Lockhart has Sid’s explosive anger down perfectly, although her last speech, offering a statement to the court explaining her actions is, like this play, only almost there.  Lockhart obviously understands her character’s plight and expresses it beautifully, but she tends to rely on tears and a quavering voice to express her position, when holding back from breaking up could be a killer.  Tears onstage can be highly effective, but more often, fighting back the overt expression of such emotion can be even more mesmerizing.

Still, Feed is a heart-wrenching, incredibly disturbing drama.  Shelley wrote that artists and poets were the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”  If there’s a future for any of us, it’s a given that the arts are key.  Let’s hope that this play is included among the elements that made our species’ survival possible.

The NoHo Arts Center is located at 11136 Magnolia Bl., North Hollywood; for tickets, call (818) 508-7101.


TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.