"Famished" eats by the spoonful./Courtesy Portland Playhouse

The characters in Portland playwright Eugenia Woods’ “Famished” are surrounded by food. That means their extended middle-class American family isn’t literally famished, in the sense of “famine-stricken,” but like just about all of us, they are deeply hungry for something. Mostly, that’s affection or connection or love, and somehow their brains, our brains, transform that hunger into the real thing.

In America, Land of Eating Disorders, we talk about this problem a lot, but we tend to focus on actual diets instead of the metaphorical or metaphysical ones, maybe because we think we can control what goes in our mouths (I have my doubts) and we’re pretty darn sure we can’t control the kind and quality and quantity of our relationships, because, you know, those involve “other people,” who are just as fluid, fractured and incomplete as we are.

Which is just to say that Woods hasn’t made an important discovery in “Famished,” receiving its world premiere from Portland Playhouse, she’s just talking about our problem in an interesting, occasionally amusing and generally insightful way. As one of the characters says, “I’m not hungry. I just need something.”


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