Theater Review: A RECIPE FOR DISASTER (Petterino’s Restaurant)

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by Dan Zeff on April 8, 2022

in Theater-Chicago


In 2012 and 2014 the famous Chicago chef Rick Bayless and the Lookingglass Theatre Company joined to present a food-and-show production called Cascabel, which combined music and circus acts with a full meal served to the audience in their seats. Now Bayless is working with the Windy City Playhouse in a new farce-with-food called A Recipe for Disaster, which is much more moderate in its presentation than Cascabel, and considerably less successful.

A Recipe for Disaster is set in a restaurant headed by Bayless as the chief chef. In 90 intermissionless minutes, watched by an audience limited to 30 patrons, all kinds of confusion and tumult take place within a long horizontal playing area with the audience strung out along the length of the room. The eight characters, split between the restaurant staff and customers, dither at a feverish pace, replicating one of those comedies in which everything goes wrong amid a welter of mistaken identities and characters shouting a great deal.

The show per se is interrupted from time to time when waiters serve the audience six bite-sized tastings and three cocktail and wine samplings primarily designed by Bayless. By consuming all six bites a customer could make a meal out of the evening (there also are appetizers served before the show begins that I thought were better than the six bites, but a foodie might disagree).

I was at a disadvantage during the show because most of the action and dialogue were in the middle and right sides of the stage and I was at the far left, so many of the confrontations with a lot of the shouting eluded me. But coherent plotting and scintillating verbal exchanges are not the long suit here so I doubt I missed all that much. Still, those viewers on the other side of the stage seemed to be chuckling a good deal, and even with my limited access to the goings on the evening never dragged.

The feverish velocity of the action does not allow the cast to do more than perform at the boil, but a few performances stood out. Most notable was Sam Linda. As one of the cooks Linda showed himself to be an actor of considerable facial and vocal skills. Amy Rubenstein, one of the show’s co-authors with Bayless and Carl Menninger, did what she could with the role of the restaurant’s much harried hostess and general manager and suggests that she could shine in a better comic environment. And Daniel Trinidad injected some high energy acrobatic and juggling moments that were most welcome.

The remainder of the ensemble consisted of Darian Tene, Desiree Staples, Marcus Jackson, and Scott Duff. David H. Bell is the let-them-rip director and William Boles designed the functional and colorful set.

With better access to the performances on the other side of the theater I might have appreciated “A Recipe for Disaster” more, but I am not normally a fan of broad comedy unless it is at the Charley’s Aunt or Noises Off level and that level was not reached at Petterino’s.

A Recipe for Disaster
Windy City Playhouse, Club Level at Petterino’s Restaurant, 150 North Dearborn Street
Wed & Thurs at 7:30, Fri at 8, Sat at 3:30 and 8; Sun at 1:30 and 6
ends on April 24, 2022
for tickets ($90 to $160), visit Windy City Playhouse

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