STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Showy acting.
That’s on the menu of “Slow Food,” a major tease of fine dining gone kaflooey.
The joke is… just about everything.
The fun is… watching kaflooeyness unfold through expert acting and directing.
The densely comedic/ironic/knowing play by Wendy MacLeod is running to June 5 as the first production of the first full season of the renovated Third Avenue PlayWorks. Changes, including those in artistic leadership, took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Slow Food” tells a tale of a couple weary from a day of travel who are walk-ins as the last patrons at an upper-crust Greek restaurant on a Sunday night. Along the way, a key comment from the husband is, “This isn’t service. It’s a hostage situation.”
The couple’s waiter, Stephen (don’t call him Steve), is a fussbudget with a limitless budget for being fussy.
Stephen plays his card of culinary expertise over and over as choices are made and either questioned or laced with options.
Sample scenario: The husband orders a Samuel Adams beer. To Stephen, that’s gauche. Wouldn’t the man like to try the local craft brew? No. But the wife would. Eventually, after much give and take, out come two sampler, sip-size glasses of the precious local craft brew. The husband tosses his back. Stephen takes that as a sign of alcoholism and says so to the wife, in earshot of the husband. And so a war brews between the customers and the waiter over all sorts of flashpoints in personalities.
Other flashpoints (short list): The waiter’s dead cat, run over by a car at age 17. The couple’s almost-adult sons, neither a world beater. An anniversary trip with reminders of naughty amid the nice. The dead-in-the-water service by a come see come saw waiter. For seriousness, a revelation of a biopsy result.
This is all an exercise in theatricality, which, Third Avenue PlayWorks being a professional house, is deliciously theatrical.
Jacob Janssen, the company’s new artistic director, flexes his directing muscle with a well-honed cast of theater artists of repute in the region.
Claire Morkin has been featured in high-level fare at Third Avenue PlayWorks over time. So have – also prominently – Alan Kopischke and Doug Mancheski, among other notable gigs. Doug Mancheski has been a major player at Door County’s Northern Sky Theater and is famous for his hundreds of performances in the legendary “Guys on Ice.” Among Alan Kopischke’s latest work is teaching/directing at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and putting up interesting productions.
“Slow Food” teems with grist for everybody’s mill, though much is off-the-wall from Wendy MacLeod’s smorgasbord imagination.
Here’s another sample scenario: The husband has been rough and rude with Stephen, and the wife suggests he compliment Stephen to smooth relations. After that happens, the wife suggests the husband flirt with Stephen, who is openly gay. Whoa! Really? Really. And that happens, and “Slow Food” takes flight into the wild blue yonder.
As the headline says, the show is top-flight nutty.
Running time: 85 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: To June 5 – 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
Notes: At present, masks are required due to COVID-19 considerations. “High school students from Door, Kewaunee and Brown counties are invited to attend TAP productions for FREE. Just show your school ID at the box office, if there are seats available, you’re in!”
Creative: Playwright – Wendy MacLeod; director – Jacob Janssen; stage manager – Dan Klarer; scenic design – Alyssa Mohn; lighting design – Kyle Cunningham; costume design – Kärin Simonson Kopischke; sound design – Hannah Foerschler; props master – Jenevieve Lee
Woman (Irene) – Claire Morkin
Man (Peter) – Alan Kopischke
Waiter (Stephen) – Doug Mancheski
NEXT: “The Book Play Club” by Karen Zacarias, June 26-July 24.
RELATED: Talkbacks: May 25: “Owen Alabado & Friends – Door County Kitchen Confidential.” What happens “back of house” at the local restaurant. June 1: Cast and director of “Slow Food.”
THE VENUE: Third Avenue PlayWorks, which includes the Steve and Jackie Kane Theatre, is located at 239 N. 3rd Ave. in downtown Sturgeon Bay. “Slow Food” opens the first full season in the renovated former Third Avenue Playhouse and Studio Theatre. The origins of Third Avenue Playhouse date to 1999. The playhouse previously was a movie theater, the Donna, which opened Nov. 25, 1958. The new auditorium is a “black box” theater at heart – black stage curtains, black walls (mostly), black ceiling – with all new theatrical support elements. On either side of the stage, walls are exposed to brick-and-stone work of original buildings – a historical touch. Architectural style? Black Box Cleaned Up does the trick. A gray, linear-patterned rug leads from the lobby into the auditorium. Seating for 144 is in eight rows on an inclined seating area, with red handrails for the steps and slopes on the sides. Seats are gray plastic structure in legs, back and arms, with seating area of red fabric. The performers in “Slow Food” use their natural voices with no assist of wireless headset amplification. The lobby areas – multiple spaces with storefront-type windows facing the street – are a blend of art gallery and loft (some exposed beams and ventilation pipes) in aura. One gathering space at present features historical photographs of the downtown. The space near the theater entrance includes photographs from selected previous productions. A concession stand has opened. Restroom facilities are greatly improved.