The Art of Dining, MRT Productions, at the Theatre Building. It's a dark and stormy night, but the chef at the Golden Carousel is bravely serving dinner--or trying to, since her nervous headwaiter husband can't help eating everything in sight. Conditions are likewise volatile out on the floor as one table substitutes food for sex, another for therapy, and a third for dueling. As the evening wears on, hostilities escalate in the dining room and meltdown threatens in the kitchen. Will nothing restore peace to this gustatory universe?
Tina Howe's exploration of what our dietary habits reveal about us requires the same delicate balance as a multicourse dinner or an intricately composed toccata. Fortunately the cast assembled by director Benjamin F. Tweel for this MRT debut production have had extensive music-theater experience, which may have helped them keep the play's screwball antics firmly under control and the intertwining story lines orderly (though Cynthia Cook de la Fuente's portrayal of a pathologically shy writer sometimes verges on TV-style caricature, checked only by Erik Watson's nicely anchored avuncular publisher's agent). A meticulously detailed set, including actual food prepared and savored onstage with mouthwatering sensuality, also contributes to The Art of Dining, whose reestablishment of cosmological harmony leaves us as sated and content as the diners are at their meals' conclusion.
--Mary Shen Barnidge