The Odessa Group, at Cafe Voltaire

Attending the Odessa Group’s “urban dinner theater” production of Jim McDermott’s Repeat w/ Madeline is like having a dinner in reverse. The waiter takes your order, plops a heaping helping of healthy edibles in front of you, takes them away when you’re done, then brings the appetizer. The hors d’oeuvre, however, is no mini frankfurter in pastry dough but a short, sweet play that is tantalizingly tasty, if not particularly filling.

Describing one woman’s attempt to foist Repete Johnson, a glib dork who’s infatuated with her, onto her best friend, this light and fluffy morsel contains numerous bits of humor and some slivers of insight into yuppie dating. But the characters are underdone–the women are virtually interchangeable, and Repete’s little more than a mouthpiece for familiar ruminations on the mercurial nature of love. Some of the talky dialogue is overdone, and the florid love letters Repete reads aloud are a mouthful. But director Jim Ortlieb’s inventive staging is delectable. Using a medley of tricks to take full advantage of Cafe Voltaire’s dining space, he makes the restaurant the show’s true star.

As dinner theater experiences go, this is an enjoyable one–a great first date for a couple who’ve met through the personals. Nothing here will interfere with anyone’s digestion, but apart from the staging and the endearingly sweet performances, there’s not much to chew over. One is more likely to leave discussing the food–good news for the restaurant, if not for the show.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Matt G. Dinerstein.