By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Tiffany (Jessie Wray Goodman) and her father, Hugh (Ken Bolden) are each struggling with loss in their own- and very different – way until a mysterious package of hamburger patties arrives in a brown paper bag in Sarah Kosar’s “Mumburger.”
Tiffany’s mother, Andrea, was a very committed vegan. She believed in sustainable food sources. Ironically, she was killed by a Bird’s Eye frozen food truck on the highway. Apparently, Andrea is prepared (literally and figuratively) for her death and choses a bizarre method of being with her family a little while longer.
Ahoy, matey! Spoilers dead ahead.
Andrea decides to become a sustainable food source for her family, by being ground up and turned into hamburger patties. While the play is most assuredly about the titular mumburgers in “Mumburger,” it’s really a coal black comedy about grief.
The central question of the play is: If you’re loved one had a dying wish – would you honor it? What if that wish was disgusting and bizarre?
“Mumburger” is a two-hander and needs two strong actors to do all the heavy lifting. This production has got it.
Goodman’s Tiffany is buoyant and effervescent even in bleak circumstances, making her eventual collapse of grief difficult to watch. The despair she exhibits in several scenes is electric.
Bolden is spectacular as an ineffectual dad who is lost without his wife. There is a manic scene (we’re not spoiling EVERYTHING) where he just goes for it. He’s 100% all in and it’s fantastic and gross at the same time.
Director Robyne Parrish makes some smart choices with Kosar’s absurd premise. There’s seems to be a lot of extraneous walking in the very beginning of the show when character’s stomp around the house, but it furthers the story in story in a subtextual way – the father and daughter are very distant from one another even in the same small location. It works.
Adrienne Fischer’s set is creepy and off-kilter in all the right ways – like the set from one of villain’s lairs from the 1966 “Batman” TV show – with eerie sound design by Shannon Knapp.
Side note: It’s noted in the show that Andrea’s favorite movie is “The Father of the Bride” and Hugh watches it on a loop – thanks to some great projection design by Taylor Edelle Stuart – to both poignancy and comedic effect. Kosar picks the Steve Martin remake and not the original with Spencer Tracy. It might be her only misstep in this highly unusual play.
Its Sweeny Todd meets Ronald McDonald by way of Bear Grylls and Eull Gibbons. Its “Alive” meets “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.” It’s wacky, wild ride.
Warning: Audience reaction was split between love and hate. There was no middle ground. It’s worth the risk.
“Mumburger” runs until March 16 at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.