Spies among us: Café Nordo’s sustainable dinner theater
Photo: John CornicelloI’m on Pan Am Flight 892, en route to the 1962 World’s Fair. Only this is no ordinary airline food, and there are spies slinking among the seats. This is To Savor Tomorrow, the latest production from Seattle theater company Cafe Nordo.
It’s the company’s fourth foray into dinner theater — although I wince calling it that. Whereas the term conjures up mediocre food and mildly entertaining shlock, Nordo has a refreshing take on the form. Photo: Alabastro PhotographyAlongside zany, gastronomic fare, made from local sustainable ingredients, they tell compelling stories that illuminate the very foods they serve. Instead of cheesy one-liners and heavy-handed pianists, Nordo’s writing is sharp and funny; all of the tunes are written by the talented composer Annastasia Workman. And rather than a sense that three hours have gone by with nothing to show but a couple of mean marinara shirt stains, Nordo serves up green education, without ever feeling preachy.
To Savor Tomorrow takes a look at the bright-eyed era when convenience food was first proposed as the solution to everything from world hunger to long hours in the kitchen. The Nordo crew captures the hopeful sentiment of the day while never forgetting — and often foreshadowing — the dark turns and ills highly-processed convenience food and industrial agriculture have brought us.
The performances have developed something of a cult following among Seattle foodies. To Savor Tomorrow has been so popular, in fact, that they’ve extended the run time by a weekend and are sold out on all but their extended dates.
I can see why. I had my complaints about the other two productions I attended — the writing was overshadowed by the food in Bounty! An Epic Adventure in Seafood and Sauced felt a little too polished. To Savor Tomorrow was nothing short of delightful.
The relationship between the plot and the plate was brilliant and multi-faceted. Cold War caricatures of Russians, Chinese people, and Americans took the stage while the audience was served “Red Martinis,” “People’s Mai Tais,” and “Old Glory’s Old Fashioneds.” Food scientists gave adoring monologues about the wonders of the Green Revolution. Chinese spies threw down bets next to dinner plates. The rise of convenient food was deconstructed and repackaged into a tale of double agents and secret briefcases; airline food was re-imagined and reinvigorated by molecular gastronomy. Both were much more sexy and palpable than their inspiration.
That’s not to say the flight went off without a hitch. The first course was nowhere in sight (unless I was asleep when the deconstructed airline peanuts made the rounds) and while the sound design was impressive, the sound production was off (the scattering of the musicians around the room and offstage caused songs to be out of sync at times).
But — if you’re anywhere near Seattle — don’t let these small details stop you. In fact, if you blink, they might sell out anyway. I’d join the Nordo cult before it’s too late, because it just keeps getting better.
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