Area premiere of work by playwright and filmmaker Cory Finley

‘The Feast’: By Cory Finley. Directed by Brendan Ragan. Runs Friday through April 19 at Urbanite Theatre, 1487 Second St., Sarasota. 941-321-1397; urbanitetheatre.com


A young artist named Matt has a problem. In Cory Finley’s play “The Feast,” he starts hearing voices — sometimes ominous and horrifying — coming from his toilet. Who or what could they be and why are they there?


Those are among the questions audiences may ponder as Matt tries to figure out what’s going on while he also deals with a frustrated girlfriend in the production that opens in its area premiere Friday at Urbanite Theatre.


Director Brendan Ragan, one of the co-founders and co-artistic directors of Urbanite, said it’s a difficult play to talk about without giving away key plot points.


But he describes it as “an intriguing and suspenseful story because Matt is experiencing things he can’t explain and don’t add up, and it all starts with sounds coming out of the toilet, which, of course, is embarrassing, and one of the reasons he doesn’t want to talk about what he’s dealing with.”


The three-person cast features Gregory Boover as Matt, Clio Contogenis as his business consultant girlfriend, Anna, and Casey Murphy, who plays all the other characters, including a plumber, Matt’s therapist, his art dealer and a man Matt meets at a bar.


“I’m certain one of the reasons Cory Finley chose a toilet is that it’s highly unusual and defies explanation,” Ragan said. “There can’t be screaming voices coming out of a toilet. That’s literally impossible, so that gives Matt an equally impossible problem to solve. How does he talk to someone about something impossible without sounding like he’s crazy?”


Boover, whose brother, Joe, appeared as Elvis Presley in Florida Studio Theatre’s production of “Million Dollar Quartet” in 2016, describes Matt as a “creative mind. When we meet him in the play, he’s in a very vulnerable place.”


And Matt’s relationship with Anna is “a little questionable,” he said. “She’s a business consultant and they come from these different paths and they somehow found their way into this relationship. There are just a lot of question marks around the two of them.”


Matt primarily creates postcard-size art work. “He hasn’t worked on a large scale until the action of the play. I’d say he’s good enough to have an agent but not big enough to be rich and famous,” Ragan said. “He’s a working artist but still striving to make his way.”


Anna is not aware of what’s going on with the voices Matt is hearing. “What she knows is that her boyfriend is being a bad boyfriend,” Contogenis said. “We don’t get that deep a look into the relationship. I imagine he’s being withdrawn. They’re not sleeping together and there’s no emotional connection because he’s not paying attention to her. At the beginning, Anna is feeling lonely because the person she loves is not there for her.”


Murphy said he plays “all the people outside his relationship that Matt interacts with and they inhabit the same body. It’s not entirely clear how (many) of those interactions are actually happening, whether they’re fantasies playing out in Matt’s mind or whether he’s projecting onto these people. It’s left ambiguous by both the playwright and this production. It gives a feeling of unease.”


The play crosses lines between reality and naturalistic scenes and moments of fantasy and delusion, or escapes from reality, Ragan said. “The audience will realize later in the play that they’re seeing the world through Matt’s experience. But we don’t know what’s real until he knows.”


Finley often deals with mysterious and horrifying occurrences in his work. He wrote and directed the 2018 film “Thoroughbreds” and he directed the film “Bad Education,” starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, which has played the festival circuit and will premiere on HBO in April.


Contogenis said the most challenging part of playing Anna is figuring out “why I don’t realize something is seriously wrong with him earlier because he is behaving strangely. He’s being cagey about it. I’m trying to figure out the balance of caring about him and being in tune with him.”


Ultimately, Ragan said, the play is about “taking care of each other. We’re all going to encounter things we don’t understand that seem to be impossible challenges. What gets us through it is love, and as it does with Matt, it’s pretty scary when something comes along that defies explanation. But we also see Matt get worse and go further down the hole the more he refuses to talk about it. Hopefully there’s encouragement that we’re each other’s best chance out there if we could connect through these challenges.”