Friday, August 7, 2009

Ceci n'est pas Dinner Theatre (The Boo Goes to Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant)

Dear Mouse,

Where to begin. I think I may have found our calling, or at least a place we might want to live.

Wikipedia: " 'Avant-garde' represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. "

Two nights ago -if this all in fact did happen - I spent a couple of wild hours at the Soho Think Tank Ice Factory Fest, in and under the company/spell/grip/menus of the one and only "Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant".

"This Is Not Dinner Theatre", they tell you during the opening number, and it ain't, despite the fact that they sing, dance, improvise, play live music, tell a story, and wear insane costumes while serving you a five course meal. Anyone hoping to dine in peace on mediocre food while watching a coherent, traditional musical safely behind a fourth wall, steer clear.

Now despite knowing almost everyone in the cast, I had been unable to get anyone to tell me just what the hell this evening would involve. I only knew that it would combine my greatest loves: Theatre, Food, and possibly some 80's rock. They had me at "complimentary ice pops."

In the spirit of the thing, I think I'll let Allen Ginsberg describe my evening. Take it, Allen.

i saw the best minds of my generation definitely not starving, but certainly hysterical and/or naked, at least one guy anyway, running past my table chased by twin sexy nurses

i saw a drunk british rock star in black speedos and a green kimono pouring bourbon and cream all over himself and into a big bowl of fruit salad to the strains of "You Really Got Me Now", after which we all ate pound cake w/blueberries & mascarpone which was delicious and I never found out what happened to the salad

i saw scantily clad men peeling various fruits in a synchronized ballet. well done there.

i saw a man with a rifle take down a woman wearing antlers and drag her through the tables to eviscerate her before our eyes...
oh the humanity, and then we all ate a delicious watermelon/feta/mint salad...

...which was served in gloved handfuls by the twin sexy nurses, directly onto our plates. Ooh la la.

i saw the ohio theatre on wooster street transformed into a glittering banquet hall complete with chandeliers, long communal tables, glitzy stage areas on both ends, an open, working kitchen area and seriously the coolest centerpieces I've ever seen:

i saw tables full of audience -- oops sorry, 'customers' --oops, sorry, 'honored guests of miss conni' - who had been strangers a moment before, wearing name tags like "Mr. Donut" and "That's What She Said", ladling soup for each other, pouring sangria, passing plates of meatloaf sandwiches and pesto pasta salad, and laughing. A lot. Even this guy: He warmed up by the end.

i was reminded, again, of how both the performing arts and the culinary arts have the power to create community, bring people together, and evoke simple joy.

i was among those who were taken aback by the cooks coming out of the 'kitchen' to share delightfully inappropriate personal histories with us before we could even get into our gazpacho

i saw bee costumes, bear costumes, dog costumes, chicken costumes, and antlers. i saw baton twirling and leg lifts. I heard live piano, upright bass, cello, violin, and washboard.

i wore this name tag: Um, it's pronounced "Sweet Bucket".

i saw, possibly for the only time in my life, an entire company of actors make a strangely moving exit through a giant refrigerator door into blinding white light.

Conni's usually operates in venues that have kitchens, but they did a great job with a cold menu. Gazpacho=mm, super garlicky. Using gemelli in the pesto pasta salad (mm)=nice touch. Was not over the moon about the cold meatloaf, but maybe I'm used to the turkey version I"ve been making? The watermelon salad was the winner!! So good! And everyone seems to be making it right now (including me, but Conni's was way better). I got the impression that the production actually really wants you to like the food and have a good meal, and we all did. In the end it's a whole experience, spectacle, sensory overload, ceremony, a big in-joke that includes you... a party. It's not meant to be Meaningful, and so it ends up being kind of... meaningful.

Somehow, by the time dessert is over and the guy in the giant dog costume says:

"Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying... nothing"

I have to say there actually was a hush in the room as we all thought about it, forks in hand... and then, collectively, I think , decided that that was just fine. As long as we can all have pound cake and bourbon cream along the way. As long as there is song and story and you can wave your lighters. As long as music and food and silly outfits can loosen us up and make us love our neighbors, there's a reason to go to The Restaurant.

I'm going back for seconds.

The Boo

"Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant" closes tonight, and is sold out anyway, but they will be at Joe's Pub, cooking up a hot meal for you on Monday, Oct. 12.


Anonymous said...

What a great entry! delightful! - hip, cool and just so damn fun to read! - booking my reservation and bringin' a crowd!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

I think this is my favorite description of our show. It makes me a little weepy. Thank you. Really. Sue James (

Anonymous said...

You should check out the blog by Lunch Lady's doppelganger, Jerusha Klemperer