Photo by Kyle Flubacker
Windy City Playhouse pretty much always provides its audiences samples of snacks and beverages during its acclaimed immersive productions, but it has never before taken the concept to the level of the new A Recipe For Disaster, a new production in a new location (below Petterino’s restaurant in the Loop). Using a script by writers including restaurant impresario Rick Bayless (along with some Bayless-provided food), WCT creates a silly, farcical (and delicious) time for its patrons. (Carl Menninger and Amy Rubenstein are also credited as playwrights.)
Guests begin the show in a (real) bar, where we first encounter many of the characters we will be following throughout the evening. We meet Emma Jo Boyden’s restaurant manager Shelley as she fields phone inquiries about the restaurant (called “Contumacious Pig,” which she tells us later basically means “pig-headed pig”). Boyden is ingratiating as the frontline figure for this restaurant, but her plan for an “Influencer Night” (because “they fired all the critics”) immediately lands in jeopardy when she fields a call from the head chef saying she will not be able to make it. On top of that, the whole pig that was ordered for this evening has mysteriously been canceled. And on top of that, this is the night when a food inspector (Clyde, played by Ryan Reilly) has decided to grace the place with his presence. And, as if all of that were not enough, the staff has been infiltrated by a competitor (Ian Maryfield) who wants nothing more than for the restaurant to fail the inspection.
I did mention that this is a farce, right?
When it turns out that the replacement pig—who knew Amazon could deliver whole hogs practically instantaneously?—does not have a government stamp on it, without which the inspector would not allow it to be served, we have the setting for a joyful and funny romp that will take place in various locations around the restaurant while influencers and other customers (that means us) sit at the tables and enjoy the insanity.
Left to try to pick up the night’s already-shattered pieces are Shelley, her sous chef Jude (Ben Page)—himself the subject of a Tribune article that has declared him an “up and coming” culinary talent—Jude’s friend and co-worker Iggy (Alex Morales), and a manic kitchen employee named Felix (a show-stealing Daniel Trinidad). The staff fights frantically to stay ahead of the inspector while the intruder tries to sabotage the proceedings. And then there are the invited guests, including loudly vegan influencer Kiki (Carly Cornelius), who is overly impressed with her (comparatively low) Instagram following, and Kiki’s “plus one,” Loreen (Kierra Bunch) who seems to be there mostly to get a free meal. ,
About the meal: of course, whatever can go wrong will, but we are still served some excellent things (including a knockout cold pasta dish and an absurdly creamy chocolate/avocado mousse dessert), along with several rounds of alcohol. (Don’t miss the Chicago Paloma, served with the starters.)
A Recipe For Disaster may not receive Michelin stars, but it is a great time. Director David H. Bell uses every inch of the space (even fully or partially hidden bits of the set like the walk-in refrigerator, the storeroom, and the restrooms) to stage the silly moments. Though patrons are allowed to walk around to better check out the sometimes overlapping or simultaneous scenes, no one did, and it truly isn’t necessary. Stay at your table: you’ll enjoy the food more easily and you won’t miss anything critical.
A Recipe For Disaster tickets are currently available through Dec 26, though WCP often extends its productions. See the Windy City Playhouse website.