THEATER REVIEW: “Seared” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]

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Hoon Lee (Harry) and Michael Esper (Mike) (photo: Daniel Rader)
Hoon Lee (Harry) and Michael Esper (Mike) (photo: Daniel Rader)

Review by Barbara Waldinger

Wilted spinach salad with warm bacon dressing; seared wild salmon with a Bengali onion chutney; seared asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper; gnocchi, pork belly sliders, scallops… This is not a restaurant menu but rather a gustatory appreciation of Theresa Rebeck’s Seared , currently at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Accolades to every member of the team who contributed to this extraordinary production. Billed as a “fit-for-foodies comedy” about the “intersection of creativity and commerce,” Seared is so much richer than this description. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the play is set in the kitchen of a small restaurant in Brooklyn, with all the above-named delicacies and more actually cooked during the performance by Chef Harry (Hoon Lee). What a sensual delight: the audience smells the dishes being prepared, hears them sizzling and sees the smoke arising from the many pots on the working stove. (In real life, Lee jokes that his “signature dish is water two ways — hot and cold.” A New York-based chef was brought in to instruct the actor in the culinary arts.) The meals are prepared at top speed as customers’ orders must be filled while waiters Rodney (W. Tre Davis) and Mike (Michael Esper) run in and out calling for dishes. Neither the dining area itself nor the diners are visible.

Mike, who started this restaurant two and a half years ago with his partner, Harry, has provided all the capital to keep it going. But now the money is running out, and Mike is frightened that if the rent goes up, they’ll have to declare bankruptcy. Consequently, but without telling Harry, he retains a consultant, Emily (Kyrsta Rodriguez) to expand their business. Understandably, Harry explodes.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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