I did ZERO research prior to seeing La MaMa's Trash Cuisine, which was kind of cool, because it meant that the show could only surprise me. Along for the ride was my old friend, Melissa, who is probably the only person I know that sees as much theatre as I do. I figured she of all people would appreciate Trash Cuisine, despite its obscurity. We entered the theatre and bravely grabbed seats in the front row so we could catch as much of the action as possible. And as the lights dimmed, my total lack of knowledge about the show I was about to experience gave way to excitement and strangely, nerves. I felt like I was about to take an exam or give a presentation in class.
Several people stood facing us in a line. One by one they introduced themselves by name, followed by their birth country. Among the countries mentioned were The United States, Australia, France, England, and most notably, Belarus. In fact, the majority of the cast was born in Belarus.
Then Trash Cuisine got boldly and unashamedly political.
Two executioners sipped champagne at an elegant table while they snacked on strawberries and cream. The ladies went on to discuss the systematic mass murders of human beings as calmly as if they were discussing their favorite TV show, and suddenly I didn't think I could ever quite look at strawberries and cream the same way again. How could they be so desensitized? Were these not people they were taking about?
A woman stood in front of a microphone, as giddy and anxious as a person doing a stand-up routine before a large crowd for the first time. She announced that she was going to do some impressions, and I instantly perked up. But my enthusiasm quickly turned into disgust. The woman performed frighteningly accurate impressions of a variety of execution methods from hanging to the electric chair, and she did all of this as if she were merely imitating popular cartoon characters. In this case, the worst, being the electric chair, was saved for last. Her high pitched rendition of one of the more popularized killing methods caused everyone's hands to plug their ears in horror and lasted an unbearable three minutes. Several people got up and walked out of the theatre because they couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't really blame them; That woman's screams reminded me of the screeching baby mandrakes from the Harry Potter series.
Although the finale of her act was hard to sit through, its message rang as loudly as her shrieks: Execution is not pretty. And yet, ridiculously, we seem to speak of it as if it isn't people's lives we are talking about. We make a mockery out of it.
Trash Cuisine called attention to the torturing and eventual murder of innocent people all done in the name of the law, and it was very difficult to not be repulsed. I mean, sure, it's easy not to care when it isn't your problem. But suppose it were your loved one getting methodically murdered by the government, especially for a crime he or she did not commit.
Most of the audience left the theatre in tears, however, not for the reason you'd think. At the end of the show, the cast proceeded to chop REAL onions and then throw the chopped pieces at the audience indiscriminately. Being sat in the front row, Melissa and I got the brunt of the onion choppings. I was merely amused by this, but a quick glance at Melissa told me that she did not fare so well. Her eyes were bright red and overflowing with tears to the point where she couldn't even see me. Right when I was thinking that I would remain unaffected, my eyes began to burn, and Melissa and I made a run for it out of the theatre and into fresher air. The snapchat that Melissa sent out after she washed out her eyes says it all: