A Toast to Matthew Richter's "Dinner Theater" by Alex M. Dunne Sep 18, 2006
From the opening invitation sung by Sarah Rudinoff to the closing Secret Cream Puffs, this show is full of surprises. Diners play the Board of Directors of a fictional futuristic "Foundation" that commissioned Richter's elders to investigate the simple question "how do we save food?"
Seventy-three years later, it is Richter's role as Director of the Commission, and his assistant played by Jodi-Paul Wooster, to deliver the answer in 16 servings of invention, creation, history and culinary tomfoolery.
Like an edible inconvenient truth, "Dinner Theater" explores how near to extinction real food has become. Facing fast food's "immortality gained through repetition", the show asks what is lost if scientists can replace the caprese salad with a genetically modified tomato growing on the vine with basil and mozzarella already inside it? It may taste good, but the increased risk brought by simplified food diversity may not be worth it. Put another way, if there's only one strain of apple left in the world, what happens when fruit bats begin competing with us to eat them?
There are a few fear-factor moments for the audience. Volunteers for Il Terrore, Il Conclusione d'Amore, Blindfolded Caprese, and Vaginadinnerroll didn't know what to expect. But who other than Richter, sporting 'friendly muttonchops' and a tuxedo, could compel you in all seriousness to join him in performing the "Nitrous Caper"?
When your show opens with a genius, travels 20,000 years through the history of food and art, posits an Incan recipe language, includes paella for 40, and sends you home with a box of "Safety Leisure Cupcakes", you've got a recipe for fresh, entertaining multi-layered fun. "Dinner Theater"
celebrates so much in two hours the after-taste of the experience lingers for days.
Kudos to OTB for offering XOM and Richter the platform for premiering this piece. This diner was particularly pleased to see this first collaboration between OTB and Richter, Wooster, and Shawn Belyea, (the creative team behind 14/48, "the world's quickest theater festival"). A second helping couldn't come too soon.
And while all four sittings of "Dinner Theater" at OTB are sold out, just call up XOM and order in. They'll serve it up "Dinner Theater" hot for you and 39 friends on your stage too.
Alex M. Dunne has seen almost every show at On the Boards since 2002, and enjoys pop-rocks with a nice glass of Las Rochas.