It’s #influencernight at the Contumacious Pig restaurant, and if you’re on payroll at a restaurant or an Instagrammer with 5,000 or more followers, you know what that means. If not, read on. The scene is the aforesaid purveyor of pork (and sundry sides), the night the amateur eaters are afoot, the head chef has doffed her apron and offed her stake in the joint, and no one knows whether the evening’s sacrificial pig has gone to market or stayed at home.
In other words, everything is business as usual until the food inspector arrives. If you like your meals with a side of mayhem, welcome to A Recipe for Disaster, written by James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Bayless, Carl Menninger, Amy Rubenstein, plus a writing team, directed by David H. Bell, and performed on the club level of Petterino’s, replete with a six-course tasting menu paired with cocktail and wine samples designed by Bayless. (The chef’s previous foray into “dinner theater” was with Cascabel at Lookingglass Theatre, which premiered in 2012 and was remounted in 2014 at the Goodman.)
A Recipe for Disaster
Through 4/24: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3:30 and 8 PM, Sun 1:30 and 6 PM; Sun 4/17 6 PM only, Club Petterino’s, 150 N. Dearborn, windycityplayhouse.com, $90-$130 (includes “six bite-size tastings and three cocktail and wine samplings”; VIP menu upgrades available).
The action begins with waitstaff Felix (Daniel Trinidad) sliding down the bistro banister with a spray of roses for restaurant manager Shelley (Emma Jo Boyden). It’s probably the nicest thing that happens to her all the blunderful night, as the phone rings off the hook and jealous chef Maria abandons the kitchen to sous-chef Jude (Ben Page), who makes all the food but doesn’t have any confidence. The influencers make their entrance, mobile phones à la main, led at top volume by Kiki (Carley Cornelius), aka @vegan.chic, who’s just several thousand followers away from a paid sponsorship and not afraid to let you know it—or any of her dietary restrictions. In tow is her plus-one Loreen (Kierra Bunch), a woman on the prowl for a man of means or at least whatever silverware she can stow in her purse.
So that takes care of envy, vanity, greed, and presumably gluttony for starters. As Shelley panics about procuring a (USDA-approved) pig, enter food inspector Clyde (Ryan Reilly), whose anxiety about cleanliness is only matched by his repressed lust and desire for acceptance.
With subplots unfolding all around, the sensation of this piece is surely not unlike a kitchen in the weeds—yet the dialogue is silly enough that the risk of missing anything crucial to the plot is low, and the best value can be gotten by observing what entertainment is nearest to hand. Most fun are the silent antics imparted by a gymnastic Trinidad, whose acrobatics are often a secret show amidst all the shouting. Conceptually, although the play is described as immersive, once seated in the dining room, the audience experience is about as confined as usual—though this doesn’t matter much from the standpoint of a fun night out with a flight of fancy food.