Matthew Richter: On Dinner Theater by Jon Milazzo Sep 18, 2006
I'm not going to say that Matt Richter is a genius but, well, there you go, I said it. Dinner theater. Boy does it bring to mind bad performances of 'Godspell' and anemic meals of fettuccine alfredo and iceberg lettuce. There is nothing in this evening that even faintly resembles dinner theater as we know it. Nothing. Welcome to the new world. You enter the darkened theater. You are asked to stand in front of the first row of seats. More people file in. They stand in front of you. There is a black curtain blocking the stage. You don't know if you should sit or not. Some people do. It is confusing. You are thrown off guard. It's not how we usually start a show. You get separated from your friends. You find them again. Good. I love this feeling. A mike'd voice speaks in the darkness. He comes down the stairs from the back of the seats. He looks like a futuristic throwback to the Wild West. He is the overly passionate and loquacious Director of the Board of the Foundation and he will continue throughout the evening to try and rein himself in. Finally we know that we are that Board and that we are here for this very important meeting of the board and so it begins. Matt Richter is mesmerizing. He takes you through this fictictionalized history of food as he traps you in his charismatic web. He seduces you. He intrigues you. He beguiles you. You wait to know what he will say next. You want to date him. Jody-Paul Wooster is his assistant and the perfect foil, slightly awkward, brilliantly subtle as they build this tension of ??? rivalry? keeping a secret? what is it? Don't think for a second that you will be allowed to passively watch this 'show' as you eat your meal. Every course of Chef Lisa Esposito's exquisite meal is an interactive dance with Richter, Wooster, the members of the Board and the text. Actually, I don't even know if I can call it a 'meal' it's really more of a journey. There is a course presented as a poem, a ritual involving chocolate and sparkling wine, another course that is literally a translation of a corinthian column(i'm not telling you more, you have to go), a story about a nitrous balloon and a watermelon and a thing about a dinner roll... and that's all in the first act. In the end this surprisingly poetic script leads us chew on this thought: 'if immortality requires infinite repetition, what is the future of food as art?' Don't be surprised if you hear about this show moving to Chicago or New York, it's that tasty; you will be happy that you got to there when the recipe was conceived. Jon Milazzo: Owner/Partner of Retrofit Home on Capitol Hill, is a shopgirl with a couple of degrees in theatre among other things.