1/25/2020 SLOW FOOD Theatrical Outfit
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE SPECIALS
So, what is your limit for putting up with bad restaurant service before giving up and just walking out? Mine is quite low – I have been known to show no empathy for a frazzled wait-person stuck alone during a busy lunch hour, even going so for as to storm out in high dudgeon without paying the bill for already-delivered drinks. Yes, it’s sad they’re suck there alone, but why should we poor diners be forced to pay the price for a restaurant’s bad management decisions?
Which explains why I didn’t respond well (at first) to Wendy McLeod’s Slow Food, a Kafka-esque comedy about the worst restaurant visit ever, why I even considered walking out of the play itself.
We’re at Dimitri’s, an establishment of Greek Cuisine in Palm Springs CA. Irene and Peter are New Yorkers on an anniversary vacation. They are jet-lagged, cranky, and starvulating. It’s nine PM and Dimitri’s is the only non-golden-archified place they could find. All they want is a meal and a drink.
But, instead, they get Stephen, a waiter who is passive-aggressive enough and narcissistic enough that HE WILL CONTROL THEIR MEAL, even to the point of sending back to the bar a lusted-for Sam Adams just so he can serve it himself and only AFTER his victims (I mean guests) have sampled the output from a local craft brewery (delivered in wee little shot-sized mugs).
Believe me, fifteen minutes of this treatment and, for me, even Arby’s (“Arby’s – it probably won’t kill you”) begins to sound good.
So, why do Irene and Peter wait patiently as Stephen finds every excuse to NOT even place their order for ninety aggravating minutes?
Because this is a play by Wendy McLeod, a playwright (The House of Yes, Women in Jeopardy) who specializes in quirky comedies that are filled to the brim with outrageous contrivances that, in the right theatrical hands (which, thankfully, are alive and well here), actually work, climbing to heights of absurdity that would (almost) make Ionesco blush.
It helps that she is also very good at creating characters with whom you don’t mind spending (a lot of) quality time; it helps that she has a wild sense of humor that never outstays its welcome, that makes you question your own reactions to these same situations. We get deeply into the lives of Irene and Peter, learning more about their marriage than should be allowed in public; we get to smile at to their habits, their quirks, their ever-changing reactions to their “imprisonment,” usually sharing their aggravations.
And we even grow to actually like Stephen, perhaps even rooting for his petty tyrannies and OCD perfectionism. No, never that …
It helps that the laughs come often and deeply. Why would I want to walk out of this incredibly funny piece when there’s nothing to look forward to other than a long and chilly commute home and a month of missing my warm and cuddly spouse (who is off on another flight-attendant training session)?
Add to that the fact that I adore Greek Cuisine, particularly Spanakopita, and wished Theatrical Outfit had some for its opening night celebration.
Director Ryan Oliveti and his design team (gorgeous set by the Curley-Clay twins, evening-in-Athens lighting by Rob Dillard, unobtrusive bouzouki music from sound designer Daniel Pope, great looking food props from MC Park, evocative costumes (especially Stephen’s uniform) from Jeff Cone) have delivered a tasty confection of a play, a funny and surprisingly effective look at an empty nest marriage that has drifted into too-many-comfortable years with too few tokens of affection. This, of course is the REAL reason to stick with these people, even as that promised Braised Lamb becomes more and more of a mirage,
So, no, I never would have tolerated being a guest of Stephen. But I’m not Irene (or even Peter), and, frankly, I am glad they displayed so much more patience (so to speak) than I ever could have, No, we never get the Spanakopita, and the Pomegranate Salad and Braised Lamb come so late they can only be wolfed down like kitchen floor scraps. We hear precious little about tasty Dolmades (a favorite of mine) or Barbouni, or Avolemono, or Ouzo, or Orzo, or Feta or even Kokoretsi (for those of us who appreciate a meal with guts). We do get a heaping helping of joy, some grated contrivances that border the absurd, and time to enjoy the company of Irene (the always thrilling Marcie Millard) and Peter (the always stalwart Matthew Edwin Lewis) and Stephen (the always inventive Dan Triandiflou).
So, Dimitri’s may not get your highest Yelp rating. But Slow Food just may.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #toSlowFood)
Just a Taste of What is apparently NOT Available at Dimitri's