"Lunch Bunch" - by Sarah Einspanier - Apollinaire Theatre Company (Chelsea, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of Sarah Einspanier's "LUNCH BUNCH" now playing at Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea, MA. through January 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Danielle Fauteux Jacques)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“I think the fulfillment of your desire would lead to despair – Or more desires. Probably both."

                                                                                                  - ("Greg") / Sarah Einspanier 

Apollinaire Theatre Company  

Presents Sarah Einspanier's

"LUNCH BUNCH"

Written by Sarah Einspanier

Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques 

Cast Includes: Cristhian Mancinas-García as "Jacob”; Parker Jennings as “Tuttle”; Paola Ferrer as “Hannah”; Michael (Shifty) Celestin as “Tal”; Alex Leondedis as “Greg”; Julia Hertzberg as “Mitra”; Laura Hubbard as “Nicole”; Ron Lacey, Dev Luthra, Katie Pickett, Brooks Reeves as “David”

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Shelove Duperier; ASM - Ben Cruz; P.A. - Alexandra Gregory; Scenic and Sound Design - Joseph Lark-Riley; Lighting Design - Danielle Fauteux Jacques 

Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA. 02150 

Performances:

December 29, 2023 through January 21, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)

TICKETS:

Reserve your tickets today!

Tickets are $30, $25 for seniors, $15 for students. 

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling # 617-887-2336 or via email at tickets@apollinairetheatre.com 

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COVID 19 PROTOCOLS

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Apollinaire Theatre Company presents the deliciously absurdist treat "LUNCH BUNCH" - a play that explores how seven public defenders must contend with the systemic pressures that threaten their respective clients, and how lunch becomes both metaphor and means of escape.

The one-act, written by Sarah Einspanier and aptly directed for Apollinaire by Danielle Fauteux Jacques, seeks to explore meaning in an office environment seemingly devoid of all meaning. 

It also explores daily "order through chaos" as the characters seek distraction from their Monday-through-Friday grind through a quest for the perfect lunch. 

In an eccentric, humorous way, if it feels like these characters come across as familiar, that is most likely intentional. 

If you have worked in any kind of white collar upwardly mobile office, you will immediately recognize many of these characters.

From the Alpha veteran trying to maintain his dominant status to the newbie desperate to fit in to those in between who simply struggle just to get through another day of monotonous drivel, all of these personality types are served up on a plate and well represented in "LUNCH BUNCH."

(Photo: Laura Hubbard as “Nicole” sits behind Parker Jennings as “Tuttle” and Julia Hertzberg as “Mitra” in a scene from Sarah Einspanier's "LUNCH BUNCH" now playing at Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea, MA. through January 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Danielle Fauteux Jacques)

Disjointed conversations and rampant manic paranoia comprises most of the 70-minute story which, for anyone who works in an office, is par for the course and no less annoying here than in any actual office.

The set is nothing but bare walls, several chairs and file cabinets in assorted sizes and drab colors - another metaphor for the monotonous hierarchy and bleakness of the working world in which these characters subsist.

There are no props outside of a couple of small food containers - otherwise there are zero office accessories and no actual food seen. Only a vacuous office cluster and an empty plate of careerism are on the menu here. 

What might also exist are partition walls but none are found here. 

If anyone overhears another's conversations, which they should given their minimal distance from each other, the characters go way out of their way to give the impression they haven't (over)heard a single word.

(Photo: Cristhian Mancinas-García as "Jacob” and Alex Leondedis as “Greg” in a scene from Sarah Einspanier's "LUNCH BUNCH" now playing at Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea, MA. through January 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Danielle Fauteux Jacques)

This is as "fishbowl" an environment as one can find. 

Of the seven co-workers seen on stage, none are more than a few feet apart from one another, yet they might as well be worlds away from each other...because they are.

To help relieve some of the monotony, each member of the office "team" shares in one day a week to provide lunches for the rest of the "team." 

There are many dietary and discriminatory requirements which must be met and every suggested offering immediately comes under scrutiny by some of those higher up the "food chain" in the office hierarchy.

Characters struggle with issues such as body image, stress, self loathing and ultimate burnout both personal and work induced.

Most of the characters rarely leave the stage (or, if they do, they merely face themselves toward a back wall) and the performances are all consistently solid.

The "LUNCH BUNCH" crew runs like clockwork but when office vegetarian Tuttle (Parker Jennings) announces a change in diet which excludes: sugar, grains, dairy, beans, MSG, alcohol, etc. throws the office into a panic. 

This leaves a gaping hole in the schedule which must be filled.

(Photo: The CAST of "LUNCH BUNCH": Laura Hubbard as "Nicole," Alex Leondedis as "Greg," Parker Jennings as "Tuttle," Cristhian Mancinas-García as "Jacob," Michael (Shifty) Celestin as "Tal,' Paola Ferrer as "Hannah," Julia Hertzberg at "Mitra." Photo Credit: Danielle Fauteux Jacques)

Nicole (Laura Hubbard) and Mitra (Julia Hertzberg) are the two newbies in the office, desperately trying to become part of the main office "clique" (aka the office "LUNCH BUNCH") led by some of the leading public defenders. 

Mitra is openly welcomed by office and "LUNCH BUNCH" Alpha, Jacob (Cristhian Mancinas-García), who is also nearing a full decade serving as a public defender. 

Not so welcomed is Nicole, who is given the opportunity to contribute by Jacob only when he is forced to take on one more food contributor to help round out the week.

Nicole's opportunity comes when office and "LUNCH BUNCH" cheese lover, Tal (Michael (Shifty) Celestin), needs to travel to Paris, again throwing the schedule into turmoil. 

Soon, we see how Jacob deals with more real world/real work turmoil, as he seeks counsel from co-worker Greg (Alex Leondedis), the office philosopher (every office needs one).

Rounding out the office "LUNCH BUNCH" crew is dynamo defender Hannah (Paola Ferrer) who outwardly appears to accept the pressure that comes with the public defender's office.

(Photo: Julia Hertzberg as “Mitra”Laura Hubbard as “Nicole,” Michael (Shifty) Celestin as "Tal' and Parker Jennings as “Tuttle” in a scene from Sarah Einspanier's "LUNCH BUNCH" now playing at Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea, MA. through January 21, 2024. Photo Credit: Danielle Fauteux Jacques)

All of the performances are surprisingly compelling considering how seriously underdeveloped the characters come across. 

There is nothing in the show's content that allows any one performance to rise above the others. 

This might be a result of the prevailing impression that there is a lot that more could have been explored in Sarah Einspanier's story.

However, for what story there is, there is still a lot to admire.  

Only two of the characters appear to have been given more extensive backstories (Nicole and Mitra), therefore the performances by (Laura Hubbard) and Mitra (Julia Hertzberg) might seem a little tastier. 

Also, the emotional conflict later experienced by the character of Jacob is well conveyed by Mancinas-García.

Yet, any of the other characters should seem very familiar to any who work in similar office environments. 

In fact, if this particular "LUNCH BUNCH" prompts anyone to question the significance of their own mundane office work, work that succeeds in subsistence but lacks in substance, then so much the better.

"LUNCH BUNCH" continues at Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea, MA. until January 21st. Up next for  Apollinaire Theatre Company is "THE ANTELOPE PARTY by Eric John Meyer. For tickets and more information, contact 617-887-2336 or email tickets@apollinairetheatre.com.

Approximately 70 minutes with no intermission

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 

@MetrmagReviews

@Theatre_Critics 


ABOUT THE SHOW

"A dramatic Bento box full of savory dialogue and sour insights, with an appropriately sweet dessert." - TheaterMania  
In a city not unlike New York, in a public defenders office not unlike The Bronx Defenders' Family Defense Practice, amidst the distinct fear/feeling that things are falling apart/going to shit more than usual, seven public defenders seek meaning, belonging, and some semblance of order via their frenzied quest for the perfect Lunch (Bunch).

ABOUT APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY 

APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY  is known for cutting-edge contemporary work, regional premieres, and for breathing new life into classics. We are proud recipients of multiple Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards, including The Kenneth A. MacDonald Award for Theatre Excellence awarded to Artistic Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques. We are also honored to have received the New England Theatre Conference Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theatre.

APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY  

Chelsea Theatre Works
189 Winnisimmet Street
Chelsea, MA 02150

# 617-329-5350

atc@apollinairetheatre.com

www.apollinairetheatre.com