By David Walters

Playwrights Horizons isn’t exactly sure what this play is about as their description only slightly touches on what’s up on the stage. The director (Morgan Green) and writer (Abe Koogler) have also put forth differing reflections on how the play spoke to them. Asking several audience members, I also got a mixed bag of understanding. Though interesting in all their perspectives, none of those points of view completely lined up with my take on it all either (covid, past lives, isolation, loneliness, restaurants, end of times, acts of service, shifting identities). So, to put it out there, this play is whatever you end up taking away from the viewing on the day you happen to see it.

Please don’t shy away from the confusion above though, you will be well taken care of in the hands of an exceptional cast, in a play that never forgets that its a play, grateful for you its audience, and fully present in its presentation. The set’s walls slowly bend and fold (sometimes unpreceptively) to form different locals. In a way, symbolizing how this play works, slowly bending and folding to reveal different aspects of itself.

Two coffee shop laptop regulars, Susannah Flood and Greg Keller, finally begin a conversation after a dozen or so five-second short scenes of painfully not communicating. A vagrant shows up in an almost death-like costume trying to steal laptops to resell for $1000. The socially awkward couple finally connect on their dislike for the coffee served at this shop and decide to go for a walk settling on the subject of their childhood dogs that equates to how they love. They end up stopping at a restaurant known for its lack of waiter attention where the staff talks only about how they love to serve their clients. The play is stopped at a certain point (by the wonderfully engaging Stephanie Berry who brings a sense of realism to the evening) and challenges itself about what the point is of everything that has just happened. No answers are given and we move on to a new waiter as he learns about the legendary restaurant and its ghost of a creator as it, and everyone and everything around it, slowly fades away.

Staff Meal was written by Abe Koogler and directed by Morgan Green.

It stars Jess Barbagallo, Stephanie BerrySusannah Flood, Hampton Fluker, Greg Keller, Erin Markey, and Carmen M. Herlihy.

The creative team: scenic designer Jian Jung, costume designer Kaye Voyce, lighting designer Masha Tsimring, sound designer Tei Blow, and illusion designer Steve Cuiffo.

Staff Meal is at Playwrights Horizons through May 19.