We just saw a hilarious skewering of the food world at L.A.’s U.C.B. (Upright Citizens Brigade) called “Pig: A Restaurant.” Actress Lauren Adams tackles everyone from Gael Greene to David Chang in this play written by Leila Cohan-Miccio and directed by Caitlin Bitzegio. Based on real world food experiences (Leila ran the blog Grub Street and Lauren worked at Balthazar and D.B. Bistro Moderne), the show imagines a Brooklyn restaurant called Pig: A Restaurant where the hostess answers the phone “This is Pig: A Restaurant, I’m Aurora: A Hostess.” Like most hip restaurants nowadays, every dish there is made with pork (to the chagrin of the owner’s dead husband’s kosher-keeping parents) and the signature drink is a Brooklyn (“which is the same as a Manhattan, except you drink it in Brooklyn.”) The show flies along at a clip and for anyone with passing knowledge of the food world (at the opening night party, Thomas Keller is turned away because he’s “not on the list”) you’re bound to appreciate the knowing, wicked humor of these very talented restaurant industry vets. And if you’re in L.A. you’re in luck: there’s another show on February 2nd at 7 PM. (There are also more shows in New York on 2/6 and 2/20). Go see it; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll crave pork belly.
This is not a theater blog, it’s a food blog. So why, on this Friday morning, am I writing a post about “Our Town”? Specifically, the production on Barrow Street in the West Village directed by David Cromer? All I will say, here in this first paragraph, is that if you live in New York and you want to see something beautiful and powerful, an emotionally-charged and totally un-cheesy interpretation of a classic American play, rush downtown and behold this lovely, surprising and deeply moving show. If, however, you don’t live in New York or you’re stubbornly anti-theater and don’t think you’ll ever see it but you’re curious why I’m writing about it here, keep reading. Everyone else, stop now.
A quick detour from food for a second. You all know I’m a theater lover (and a certified playwright) so here are two picks for shows I think you’ll enjoy if you’re coming to New York. The first, “Reasons To Be Pretty,” is the latest from Neil Labute (and a Tony nominee for Best Play). If you like theater that is contemporary, engaging, emotional and brutal, this is the show for you. It’s got a killer cast and a memorable plot involving a guy who tells his friend he thinks his girlfriend’s looks are “regular.” She finds out. Drama ensues. The other show I recommend is maybe the best revival I’ve ever seen and that would be the revival of “Hair.” This production has everything: great songs, a killer cast and an emotional center that’ll leave you teary by the end. Both shows have reasonably priced tickets so, if you’re at all curious, I say go! You won’t regret it.
The James Beard Awards were last week, this week the Tonys. It’s often occurred to me that theater geeks have much in common with foodies and now I’d like to make a list of how the theater world is similar to the food world and vice-versa:
* The food world and the theater world are both often seen as elitist;
* The parts of the food world that aren’t seen as elitist (the Food Network, fast food, movie theater nachos) are considered by the elitists to be lowbrow just as populist theater (jukebox musicals, movie-to-stage adaptations) are frowned upon by theater elites;
* Still, both worlds are niche worlds with communities of passionate people who follow the ups and downs of their industry with fierce fascination;
* Restaurants fear Frank Bruni the way that producers fear Ben Brantley;
* New voices are celebrated to the point of exhaustion–David Chang meet Stew;
* Newish voices take a while to be noticed but once noticed are also celebrated to the point of exhaustion–Wylie Dufresne meet Tracy Letts;
* Older voices get their moment in the sun after long careers of hard work–Jean-Georges meet Patti LuPone;
* It’s expensive to eat at James Beard award winning restaurant; it’s expensive to see a Tony-winning play (or any play or musical, for that matter);
* If you make it in theater, you often flee to Hollywood to do movies and TV (see: Cynthia Nixon, Mary Louise-Parker); if you make it in the food world, you often flee to “Hollywood” by way of Food Network, the Home Shopping Channel, the frozen food aisle, and restaurant franchises (see: Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali);
* Las Vegas: both restauranteurs and theater producers go there to offer watered-down versions of “high” culture;
* Modern American food culture owes a debt to gay men (notably James Beard & Craig Claiborne) just as modern American theater owes a debt to gay men like Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Stephen Sondheim;
* People turn their nose up at foods they consider weird (offal, for example) the way that audiences walk out of plays they consider weird (“Top Girls,” for example);
* People don’t dress up any more to go to the theater much like they don’t dress up any more to go out to dinner;
* Some save menus, some save Playbills;
* Celebrity chefs fill restaurant seats just like celebrity cast members fill theater seats, (despite frequent bad reviews, Julia Roberts);
I’m sure I can go on and on, but we can leave it at that. Thank you for indulging my desire to point out how the food world is similar to the theater world. Carry on, designers. (Oooh, that leads to the fashion world… but that’s another post.)