Watch “Blood Meal” below
Billed as a “satirical thriller” about a young couple whose home is overtaken by blood-sucking insects, “Blood Meal” didn’t seem for me; I’m not a horror buff. But, as it turns out, the 35 minute play on video starring Joshua William Gelb and Lee Minora is not a bloody horror story or a thriller. It’s…..well, it’s the latest original production by Theater in Quarantine, Gelb’s hugely inventive experiments in the smallest possible space.
In the ten months since the shut-down of physical theaters, Gelb has presented some two dozen productions in the closet of his East Village apartment. (The last, in December, “I Am Sending You The Sacred Face” a musical about Mother Teresa, convinced me that his productions are must-see.)
In a sign of Gelb’s ambition, this new show has expanded beyond his closet — to a second, newly created “closet” in the basement of LaMaMa, accommodating a second performer.
“Blood Meal” is written by Scott R. Sheppard, who co-wrote and co-starred in “Underground Railroad Game,” a clever and surprise work of theater with a clear commentary on Americans’ reluctance to confront this nation’s history of racism.
“Blood Meal” has a measure of bright dialogue and clever staging as we watch Sam and Lindsay cheerfully chat with (an unseen) neighboring couple just outside their doorway; they’ve been socializing outdoors in the cold. Sam and Lindsay offer excuses for why they won’t invite their neighbors into the house: “We’re installing a, um, a hot tub right now actually.” In the next scene, it becomes clear that they are “in the closet” about the insect infestation in their home.
We don’t see any massive infestation; they’re not sure if the bugs are still there or not, although they do spot a moth or two.
It’s easy to see “Blood Meal” as a metaphor – about intimacy and privacy, about what it’s like to live with a secret, and, given the era in which we’re living, perhaps also a meditation on the fear of being harmed by something unseen.
In the Zoom talkback after the show, Gelb seemed most taken with the technical advances that allowed him and Minora, though many blocks apart in reality, to seem to be sharing the same space. He is right to boast about this all happening during a live performance. But….
Gelb’s closet measures four feet wide by eight feet tall; it’s two feet deep. It’s been impressive that the Theater in Quarantine shows I’ve seen have been so spacious and deep…in theatricality and spirit, not real estate. That’s where I hope Gelb keeps focusing his ambition and imagination — not on the video; on the theater.