Local playwright Padilla’s ‘The Hunger’ isn’t quite ripe for consumption

The Hunger at Las Vegas Little Theatre isn’t ready for audiences right now.
Susannah Smitherman
Jacob Coakley

Two stars

The Hunger January 30-February 1, 8 p.m.; February 2, 2 p.m.; $14-$15. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996.

Local playwright Edward Padilla’s new show, The Hunger, opened last weekend at Las Vegas Little Theatre, but the play needs a lot more work before it’s ready for audiences.

The story revolves around one multigenerational family’s attempts to slake the all-encompassing hunger of its matriarch, who is eating them out of house and home. Rather than ground this metaphor in any kind of specificity, however, the play lurches forward in a fever-dream of nonsensical situations and non-sequitur emotional reactions that not only don’t make logical sense but also don’t even have an internal consistency.

We’re meant to feel the tragedy of people losing businesses and pawning furniture to support themselves, but attempts at giving the characters nobility or empathy are undercut by their constant incompetence. Somewhere in the second act, the audience seems to give up trying to follow the play, with one member putting her head in her hands in exasperation with the events onstage.

The actors soldier on, kind of. They seem aware of the arbitrariness of the script, and deal with it in their own ways. Abby Dandy (as wannabe rapper Trip, who goes to ridiculous lengths to avoid getting a job to help support the family) mugs her way through the show, accepting the absurdity of a character who is lowered to selling Bibles at bars while still in her silk pajamas. Her character doesn’t make a lot of sense, but her inventiveness and insouciant attitude is a breath of fresh air next to some of the other actors who are stuck on “shrill,” “depressed” or “valium.”

In addition to writing the script, Padilla also directed. While he clearly had a vision, perhaps an outside director would have forced him to clarify his thoughts a little more—and given him time to focus on rewrites so as to bring them into sharper reality. As it is, this play is still decidedly too undercooked for audiences right now.

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