"All Thoughts Are Our Thoughts" at Cafe Nordo

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Onerus dreamer 2.jpgDinner theater has come a long way since Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland shouted "Let's put on a show!" and danced their way through Babes in Arms (1939). At the corner of First & Main in Pioneer Square, Seattle's resident company of madcap artists and cooks, known collectively as Cafe Nordo, certainly started in that tradition of enthusiastic, frenzied entertainment. They've found a permanent home at last, in the space vacated by Elliott Bay Books, rechristened Culinarium, and the new show, titled Onerus (written by Nordo co-founder Terry Podgorski), is darker and more thoughtful, but no less original.

From the ceiling, at the center of the room, hangs what appears to be a rocket engine, or perhaps some sort of surveillance satellite. It's part Woody-Allen Orgasmatron, part Star Trek. Turns out, it's a kind of reverse dream machine; instead of feeding messages into the hapless soul who stands beneath it, the device sucks them out and feeds them to a group of nameless clients (the actual theatergoers) who can't seem to dream on their own. (Not sure why the dreamers have to be "deviants," but then, what's a good sci-fi plot without deviants?) Yes, this does get meta pretty quickly, but there's plenty of bombast and pretensious balloons to prick along the way, plenty of hot air to be vented, self-righteousness to be deflated. That's where Podgorski's strength as a playwright lies, in weaving a string of satirical setups into an evening of entertainment. As usual, there's plenty of theatricality, enlivened by original music from Annastasia Workman.

Most of the old hands from the Circus Contraption days (long ago) are still on hand: Opal Peachey as the head "dream viewer" is the standout. Jose Amador is a solid newcomer. The waitstaff, clad in visored helmets, carry beverages like robots among the diners, with the cast itself (never breaking character) serving a four course dinner. The drinks are stiff; the food, from Brindley (who not only directed the show but runs the kitchen) is both relevant to the performance and tasty, too. Wanna buy a ticket? Click here.

Thing is, how many self-sustaining, mainstream theaters are there in Seattle? With a playwright-in residence, and a troupe of players? Presenting original, limited-run material several times a year? Yeah, the Rep, the downsized Intiman, ACT. And now that Teatro Zinzanni's Spiegeltent has folded up and disappeared into the night, who else does dinner, while you're watching?

Nordo has been around now for long enough to develop a repertory of hits (the chicken dinner) and is poised to capitalize on the revival of Twin Peaks. They regularly work with outside shows (burlesque, anyone?) with producers of other diversions and distractions. But the runs are limited (maybe 24 shows in a series); as Brindley says, "You have to be in the know."

Cafe Nordo presents Onerus at the Culinarium, 119 S. Main St., Seattle. Through Nov. 19th.

Photo: Heather Relvem as CFO Dement. Credit Bruce Clayton Tom.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on September 25, 2017 8:54 AM.

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