FOOD STORIES at Word for Word a feast of the senses.

Left to Right: Patricia Silver and Delia MacDougall in Enough share the addiction of ice cream. Soren Oliver as the Chef mesmerizes Molly Benson as the restaurant critic in Sorry Fugu in Word for Words production of Food Stories: Pleasure is pleasure at Theatre Artaud Zspace.

FOOD STORIES:Pleasure is pleasure. Sorry Fugu by T.C. Boyle and Enough by Alice McDermott. Directed by John Fisher. Word for Word Performing Arts Company, Z SPACE at Theatre Artaud, 450 Florida Street, (Near 16th Street BART), San Francisco. (800) 838-3006 or Through February 4, 2012.

FOOD STORIES at Word for Word a feast of the senses.

The name of the theatrical group “Word for Word” is so much more than an expanded Reader’s Theatre. Yes, in true Reader’s Theatre manner, they use all the words on the printed page including “he/she said” “she showed complete dismay” etc. but this fantastic performance ensemble is so creative one does not want the evening to end. They take word for word concept further by acting out the story and adding theatrical staging without changing the interpretation. Their productions of the Tobias Wolff stories are unforgettable and there has always been a sense of expectation and trepidation when attending every opening since then.

Trepidations were dispensed with and expectations were met on opening night of Food Stories being given a fun, thoughtful and should not be missed staging on the voluminous Theatre Artaud stage with the action taking place within a few feet of the first row. They have brought aboard John Fisher, artistic director of the Rhino Theatre, to direct and gathered an ensemble that work together with precision each being individualistic characters in a symbiotic whole.

In the first offering, Sorry Fugu by T.C. Boyle is set in a restaurant kitchen and dining room, and Alice McDermott's New Yorker story Enough, brings to life one woman’s sensual relationship with food that carries over into social/sexual life cycle. Both are more than appropriate for the plethora of food groupies that populate the narcissistic world of San Francisco. Be assured there is no necessity to be a “foodie” to be smitten by the on stage shenanigans.

Have you ever wondered about the personalities of restaurant critics and the effect of their reviews on chefs who own their establishments? Wonder no more. T.C. Boyle has created Chef Albert D’Angelo (a multitalented Soren Oliver), his faithful assistant and paramour Marie (the one and only Delia MacDougal) and a staff with personal traits that all will recognize. With the exception of Oliver and MacDougal the other four cast members double in 20 distinctly different characters. To mention a few of them, they include a bitchy sexy critic Willa Frank(the gorgeous Molly Benson) her kindly co-worker (Patricia Silver), a self-proclaimed food expert called “The Palate” (Gendell Hernandez), a waiter Eduardo (Rudy Guerrero), and proverbial non-English speaking Mexican dish washers.

The story takes place in mid-1980s Los Angeles and revolves around the anticipation of three visits and the arrival of the tough restaurant reviewer. The hectic kitchen activities and responses in the dining room are brilliantly staged by Fisher and acted by the cast. Set Designer Mikiko Uesugi has created a full professional stainless steel kitchen and a moveable swinging door frame that seamlessly moves the action form the work space to the dining room. The denouement will have you chuckling throughout the 15 minute intermission in preparation of an entirely different switch on food and its life consequences.

In Enough Delia MacDougal and Patricia Silver have the honor of being the ones without character changes. MacDougal plays the younger woman with an insatiable lust for ice cream and Silver the older woman who compounds that lust into a life time of social/sexual behavior well into her 90s insisting that “pleasure is pleasure” no matter where in originates.

The ensemble cast is incredibly skilled, talented, clever, with perfect timing, often outrageously funny and handle Fisher’s energetic directions without missing a beat. Sorry Fugu runs about 45 minutes Enough about 30 minutes. The evening is a feast of the senses.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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