Sharp and hilarious, somehow Jimmy Grzelak interweaves Copyright law, Christian religious ritual, cooking show culture, pop songs, and poignant questions about the nature of spirituality and how we relate to the world and people around us. St. Jimmy Celebrates “The Food At Our Feet” is a high-energy, densely layered one-man show, equal parts stand-up comedy and cultural study.
The program, usually a space for bios, credits, and thanks, was actually the program for a pseudo-religious ceremony. The 70-minute show mimicked the structure of a mass, a reference that is cleverly conflated with a loophole in copyright law through which “nondramatic literary or musical work” performed in a religious assembly is not an infringement of copyright. So, St. Jimmy Celebrates “The Food At Our Feet” is packed with quotations and citations, returning constantly to the liturgy as metaphor and format. We’re asked to contemplate such eternal mysteries as why are there so many kinds of mustard, but just one ketchup?
Even part of the title is borrowed. “The Food at Our Feet” is an article published in The New Yorker in 2011 about the foraging trend, following a master chef forager René Redzepi. Grzelak recites parts of the article, pointing at first perhaps to the absurdity of the casual privilege of the writer and “foodie” culture in general, the irony of flying to a foreign country to look for free food.
His intention is often ambiguous, it is always complex, sometimes sarcastic, and sometimes reverent. He co-delivers a monologue with a recording of a weepy Paula Deen defending herself against the racism accusations that ended her career on The Food Network. This can be read as inflammatory and critical, as compassionate and empathetic, or perhaps he is doing the tricky thing of inhabiting both positions at once. At one point he makes a joke about his own tendency to think, always, multiple thoughts at once, funny because by that point that fact was very clear.
As the ceremony progresses, there is a shift in tone. The grabbing of sources turns from pop culture to his own personal experiences. He tells a beautiful personal story that pulls together fragments already given, peeling away layers of this complex story towards something essential about life and transformational experience. His sincerity matches his wit. Heavy with clever wordplay, nothing is simple, and meanings seem to multiply.
This is the kind of work that asks a lot of the audience, and not just in light participation, but because it so quickly covers so much ground. It is well worth it, on top of smart content this show is brilliantly delivered and totally hilarious; I laughed through the whole thing. It is tempting to carry over Grzelak’s extensive food metaphors to talk about the show, but that might be too easy, and St. Jimmy Celebrates “The Food At Our Feet” is far from easy.
Running Time: 70 minutes
St. Jimmy Celebrates “The Food At Our Feet plays through Sunday, July 26, 2015, at Dance Place: Hyman M. Perlo Studio – 3225 8th Street NE, in Washington, DC For tickets, visit their Capital Fringe Page.