By Holli Harms
We all sat quietly and listened to the Teacup talk. Talk about her existence there on the table – privy to so many conversations. She tried to persuade Mug of the importance of her, the Teacup. And we all sat, and listened, and agreed.
Voiced by Kathleen Chalfant, which even if you don’t know the actress you would have been drawn in by her voice, her deep audible emotions reaching out and touching us all as we quietly sat and looked at a Teacup on a table next to a Mug that read “Cornelia Street Cafe.” A lovely moment.
This was just one of seventeen vignettes set in a restaurant that makes up This Is Not A Theatre Company’s Cafe Play now performing at the historical Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village. The audience sits at tables with strangers, or friends, and during the 90 minutes it takes to serve and eat a three course meal you watch all the vignettes play out.
There is audience immersion with the actors all about us, but I never became fully engaged. The performances felt too reserved. I wanted them to be less polite and be more of a taking the bull by the horns. This is not to say that I was not entertained, moved and even educated: I learned the history of my favorite table condiment, salt; heard about misguided racism; how we get in our own way repeating again and again the same self-effacing comments; how we walk on tiptoes these days not even knowing if a simple Halloween costume might cause an uproar of insensitivity; and how we treat the people that serve us says so much about our own lack of kindness – in our current world climate we have to remind ourselves of that simple act. All this while the waitresses (actors) do their best to serve us our food, continuously ignored by “customers” (actors) with faces in their phones – and how often have we seen this behavior at a restaurant or even worse been that behavior.
What adds to the evening is the music, made up mostly of the audience in the act of eating. The audience is not carrying on with usual restaurant conversations, the murmur of talk on top of talk, because only the actors or teacups or mugs are speaking. The clinking of forks on plates, and spoons in cups takes on a whole new background musicality.
Cafe’ Play reminds us that even a night out to eat can turn into a discovery.
Café Play is conceived and directed by Erin B. Mee, Written by Jenny Lyn Bader, Jessie Bear, Erin B. Mee, and Colin Waitt, Choreography by Jonathan Matthews, Stage Management & Assistant Direction by Andrew Wehnke, Sound Design by Jonathan Matthews & Evan Schwartz
With: Marisa LaRuffa, Caiti Lattimer, Richard McBride, Jonathan Matthews, Nicole Orabona, Amanda Thickpenny Voice Overs by Kathleen Chalfant (Teacup), Nick Fondulis (Cockroach) and Jed Peterson (Mug)
Audiences get a three-course dinner during the show (included in the ticket price). Drinks are not included.
Café Play will run from September 16 to October 28 at Cornelia Street Café at 29 Cornelia St.
Sundays Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept. 30, Oct. 14, and Oct. 28
at 5:30pm and 8:00pm
Tuesdays Sept. 25 and Oct. 16
A very limited number of tickets are available to each performance.