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Wednesday, 02 August 2017 12:14

"The Food Show" a unique take on cooking

As a cook and a big fan of Ina Garten, I was excited to see “The Food Show” on opening night by The Neo-Futurists theatre. The main plot of the story is about family, which is brilliantly defined through cooking. Rather than hold the show at the Neo-Futurium, there was a last-minute change in location as the theatre company is partnering with Metropolitan Brewing in Avondale. 

Upon entering the venue, we were greeted by gentleman who offered us a beer before heading to our bleacher-like seats, similar to what one would find in a football stadium or gymnasium. Yes, this was going to be a different theatre experience.

As we sat down, I noticed Tif Harrison kneading some dough that will later be used to make pasta, which was interesting to watch in itself – and pleasantly strange. I was also happy to see Spencer Meeks who starred in “We Are Going to Die” at Den Theatre earlier this year, who puts on yet another steady performance in this very unusual, yet entertaining, production. The play is divided into seven sections with an opening by Kyra Sims who was visiting from New York. 

One of the most identifiable performers in “The Food Show” is Oliver Camacho who happens to be a chef in his days before acting. He is easy to connect with and, in this particular performance, made what looked to be a perfectly seared salmon. Bilal Dardai is another intriguing character impressed upon the audience who engagingly talks about Islamic constraints of eating pork and his kid's food allergies. 

I want to be clear. The style of cooking in “The Food Show” is not refined like that you would see Ina Garten cooking up in her Hamptons home. Actors before cooking professionals, these chefs were a bit messy and their chopping skills (sorry, Bilal) need some help. But that is all part of the fun in “The Food Show”. After getting past the fact that we are not watching Gordon Ramsay, it’s easy to appreciate what the play really is - sharing life experiences over food and reflecting on where our food comes from. 

The Neo-Futurists' “The Food Show” is being performed at 3031 North Rockwell, right next to the Metropolitan Brewing. Tickets range from $10-$25 and can be purchased at www.neofuturists.org. The show will be playing until September 2nd. My tip to those planning to see this production - wear something light and breezy as there is no air conditioning in the warehouse. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Replacing the twenty-eight-year long-running hit show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind", which was known for delivering thirty original plays in sixty minutes with an ever-changing cast, is a new troupe of high energy players each with their own personal gifts and comedic skills. In the same tradition, Neo Futurium now presents The Infinite Wrench. 

Greg Allen, the original founder of the name and style of such theater decided to revoke the use of the name and concept a few years after he left the troupe in 2011. The last performance of “Too Much Light” came on December 31st, 2016. The show, as most know, was a longtime late-night fixture in Chicago. All I know is that two of my best buddies in college spent four years with me honing exactly these type of skills, improvising and then writing/performing - John C Reilly and Phil Ridarelli. While John went off to make films fairly quickly after school, Phil worked hard for years with the original Neo Futurist members to turn "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" into the thoughtful, yet funny and exciting theater experience it was. “Too Much Light” went on to become the longest running theatre- production in Chicago’s history and became an iconic piece of our pop culture. Though the new show could very well be just as unique and exciting (and I do look forward to seeing what it will develop into), I’ll certainly miss Phil and some of those older members. 

That said, the new troupe has an energy all their own. The topics of the plays were more political in nature, which I liked. For example, one consisted of an actor writing DECENCY at one end of a thirty-foot-long chalkboard then drawing a LONG line to the words CHILD RAPE, finally drawing a line below the word CHILD RAPE that points to the word BREITBART, comparing the publication to that dark side of the spectrum, which was quite funny. 

The Infinite Wrench creates a team atmosphere, each guest receiving a name tag with a color upon walking into the theatre. Teams are decided by the color designated and get to decide the next play by yelling out their color when the actors say “Next” at the end of their sketch. Five stations each of different colors (red, blue, green, pink, and yellow) hold five plays that are randomly selected by the actor after running towards the color the actors hear first. But the overall goal is to complete thirty plays in sixty minutes, a timer set just after the actors explain the rules to the audience. 

Each play varies in content and could come in the form of monologues, musical numbers and/or group sketches, some being silly-funny (First Man on the Moon) while some poignant and some perhaps a bit nonsensical. The audience is warned by the actors that all plays, inspired by something they have experienced, might not be as funny when acted out as they may have been while writing them. If such is the case, the play is scrapped and a new one reworked into the next show though new plays are worked in weekly regardless. Each play introduced into the show is written by one of the performing actors.  

The Infinite Wrench has big shoes to fill in replacing such a popular Chicago theatre pastime that has actually created its own cult-like following. After watching the show in its opening weekend and seeing the highly-animated actors go to work and the material that was so well presented, but especially noting the positive crowd reaction, I am quite sure the Neo-Futurist tradition will carry on, seamlessly. 

I LOVE the way the actors involve the audience throughout the entire show. I have been asked onstage to play the piano, I have shouted out the word PINK at inappropriate moments to huge laughs. The Neo-Futurists offer a very special and freewheeling, uniquely Chicagoan, way of viewing theater. 

There are often performer antics taking place in the lobby before and after the show, and are low-priced snacks at the end of the Hall of Presidents entryway enroute to the theatre itself. 

Should this new, and very talented, cast keep the heart in what they’re doing, as did The Neo-Futurists in the past, The Infinite Wrench will continue to run for another twenty-eight years. The creative production team and actors include Kurt Chiang, Trevor Dawkins, Nick Hart, Jeewon Kim, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney and Leah Urzendowski Courser.  

Where does the name come from?

As mentioned on the Neo-Futurists home page for the show - The title of our show The Infinite Wrench is partly inspired by text from Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” (1914). Loy was briefly associated with the original Italian Futurists, and wrote her manifesto in response to some of the group’s establishing principles.

If you are disabled or have a hard time walking, please note the theatre is not wheelchair accessible and that climbing a flight of stairs is necessary to enter the theatre. However, they do honor accessibility requests and offer to assist the best they can. To find out more about making an accessibility request, click here.  

The price is right and even paying to get in is part of the fun. Tickets are just $9 plus a role of the dice that add an extra $2-$12. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. For more show information, click here

 

 

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